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i'jj y n d £ n 





A TRUE 
STORY 
OF GREED, 
FORGERY, 
DECEIT, 
AND DEATH 



STEVEN NAIFEH & 
GREGORV WHITE SMITH 



— 




Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2009 



http://www.archive.org/details/mormonmurderstruOOnaif 



The 

Mormon 

Murders 

A TRUE STORY 

OF GREED, FORGERY, DECEIT, AND DEATH 

STEVEN NAIFEH 

AND 

GREGORY WHITE SMITH 



|^| WE1DENFELD & NICOLSON 

WN 



NEW YORK 



Copyright © 1988 by Wood ward/ White, Inc. 

All rights reserved. No reproduction of this book in whole 
or in part or in any form may be made without written 
authorization of the copyright owner. 

Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, New York 
A Division of Wheatland Corporation 
10 East 53rd Street 
New York, New York 10022 

Published in Canada by General Publishing Company, Ltd. 



Photographs appear courtesy of the following: 

Salt Lake City, LDS Visitors Center, Gary Sheets with portrait, Hofmann with S. Flynn: 
michael o’brien/© Sunday times, London; LDS Temple, Ashworth, Throckmorton and W. 
Flynn: anacleto rapping/© 1987 los angeles times; Hofmann’s car, Rust, Church officials at 
press conference: tom smart/deseret news; Farnsworth and Bell: © 1987 longin lonczyna, 
jr.; Salamander Letter, Oath of a Freeman, Mark and Dorie Hofmann: jack monson/deseret 
news; Tanners, Flynn: salt lake tribune; Yengich with Rich, Cannon et a!., Jacobs, Mark and 
William Hofmann: ravell call/deseret news; D’Elia, Stott: derek smith; Yengich: paul g. 
barker/deseret news; Hofmann at prison: paul fraughton/salt lake tribune; Kathy Sheets 
with family. Gary sheets; Steve and Terri Christensen: terri lauder; Christensen children: 

ALAN MILLS/TERRI LAUDER. 



Manufactured in the United States of America 



Designed by Irving Perkins Associates 



Acknowledgments 



Before this book, our contacts with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- 
day Saints were limited but benign. One of us dated a woman who was 
a devout Mormon; the other was acquainted, through secular channels, 
with a senior member of the Church leadership, a man of considerable 
stature and integrity. 

But books often take unexpected, even unwanted, turns. 

In one of our last interviews, a respected Mormon historian asked us 
how the Church fared in our account. He obviously understood what we 
had come to understand — that there was much about the Mark Hofmann 
case the Church would prefer not to see in print. 

We answered his question with another question: What is the Church? 
Is it the body of Mormon doctrine? If so, which doctrine — Mormon 
doctrine as currently held or Mormon doctrine as held at the time of the 
Prophet Joseph Smith? Or is it the current leadership of the Church, as 
most Church leaders maintain? Or is it the community of Mormons and 
the shared values that bind them together? 

Each of these “churches” fares differently in our account. 

This book is based largely on a series of interviews, most of which were 
conducted in Utah during nine months in 1987. Some were brief; some 
lasted days. No one was more generous with their time and recollections 
than Detectives Jim Bell and Ken Farnsworth of the Salt Lake City Police 
Department. We are also especially indebted to the members of the 
victims' families: Scott Christensen, Joan Gorton, Heidi Sheets Jones, 
Terri Christensen Lauder, Joseph Robertson, Katie Sheets Robertson, 
Gary Sheets, Gretchen Sheets, and Jimmy Sheets, all of whom went out 
of their way to make us feel comfortable in a situation that had to be as 
awkward for them as it was for us. 



vii 



viii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 

In addition, we would like to thank Julius Andersen, Richard Anderson, 
Carl Arrington, Leonard Arrington, Brent Ashworth, John Ashton, Ralph 
Bailey, James Barber, Brent Bateman, Lary Ann Bateman, Don Bell, Curt 
Bench, David Biggs, Davis Bitton, Jill Brady, Cherie Bridge, Mike Bridge, 
Wilford Cardon, Mike Carter, Betty Lynn Davis, Gerry D’Elia, Duffy 
Diamond, Sue Dunster, Fred Esplin, Mildred Evans, Ralph Feurer, Peggy 
Fletcher, William Flynn, Dick Forbes, Ernie Ford, Jack Ford, Jane 
Forsgren, John Foster, Mike George, Jennie Glover, Demoin Gold, Don 
Gottfredson, Paul Grant, Rick Grunder, Charles Hamilton, Mark Ha- 
roldsen, John Harrington, John Heinerman, Charles Honts, Bob Jack, 
Lyn Jacobs, Franklin Johnson, John Johnson, Chris Jones, Kyle Jones, 
Grant Kesler, Faye Kotter, Leslie Kress, Don LaFevre, Dean Larsen, 
Wade Lillywhite, Richard Lindsay, Leo Lindsey, Bruce Lubeck, Paul 
Markosian, Richard Marks, Michael Marquardt, Brent Metcalfe, Jill Met- 
calfe, Thomas Moore, Eric Nielsen, Jorgen Olsen, Mike Orchard, Lynn 
Packer, Bruce Passey, Hal Passey, Robert Pitts, Daniel Rector, Kirk Rec- 
tor, Janet McDermott, Randall Rigby, Kenneth Rigtrup, A1 Rust, Gaylen 
Rust, Jeff Salt, Darlene Sanchez, Donald Schmidt, Jeff Simmonds, Con- 
nie Smith, Jack Smith, Nick Smith, Diane St. Thomas, Gregory St. 
Thomas, Stephanie St. Thomas, Robert Stott, Don Tanner, Jerald Tan- 
ner, Sandra Tanner, Paul Toscano, George Throckmorton, Dawn Tracy, 
Bradley Volmar, Wesley Walters, Brent Ward, Brooke Wells, David 
West, Bud Willoughby, Kenneth Woolley, Ron Yengich, David Yocom, 
Michael Zinman, and Mark Zobrist, as well as a dozen other people who 
asked that their names be withheld. 

While the conventions of storytelling require that books on criminal 
cases focus on the efforts of a few key investigators, such cases are almost 
always solved through the efforts of many. The Hofmann case is no 
exception. Among those whose contributions deserve recognition are C. 
Larson of the B.Y.U. Police Department; Steven Bauer, Clive Barnum, 
Jo Ann Becker, Elliott Byall, Richard Chase, John Dehaan, Allan Galyan, 
Michelle Guthrie, Larry Hall, Jordan Lowe, Jerry Miller, James New- 
berry, Carl Newton, Edward Peterson, Steve Pirotte, Mary Riker, Marvin 
Rennert, Joyce Seymour, Robert Swehla, Jerry Taylor, James Thompson, 
and Frank Wandell of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; 
Philip Dinan of the Denver City Police Department; Scott Bakken, David 
Barker, Ned Christensen, Steve Clark, Calvin Clegg, Russell Dalrymple, 
Robert Gallacher, Richard Graham, William Hanes, A1 Jacobsen, Morris 
James, Melvon Jensen, Terry Knowles, Theresa Mack, Dennis Molder, 
Stephen Moore, Rhead Richards, Donald Roberts, Don Rogers, Jeffrey 



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ix 



Sarnacki, William Walker, and Mark Wilson of the FBI; Paul Hardy, 
Rudy Reit, and Steve Sweeney of Utah's Office of the Medical Examiner; 
Craig Geslison of the Provo City Police Department; Steve Bartlett, Sam 
Dawson, Dick Forbes, Michael George, Jennie Glover, George Throck- 
morton, and Olin Yearby of the Salt Lake County Attorney's Office; Russ 
Adair, Chris A'Hearn, David Askerlund, David Aylor, Jim Bell, Jim Bry- 
ant, Don Cahoon, Joel Campbell, John Campbell, William Cawley, 
James Chandler, George Clegg, Billy Collier, Ray Dalling, Mike Davis, 
Steve Diamond, Ralph Evans, Ken Farnsworth, Jim Faraone, Mike 
Fierro, Mike Fithen, John Foster, Scott Foulger, Bob Gillies, Jim Grand- 
pre, Bill Gray, Bo Grimes, Scott Hallock, Frank Hattonward, Sam Hem- 
ingway, Dave Hendrick, Mack Humphries, Jed Hurst, Jim Jensen, John 
Johnson, Kyle Jones, Kelly Kent, Joseph Kattenring, James Leary, John 
Longson, Edward Lyman, Doug Maack, Henry Mark, Scott Marks, Chris 
Martinez, Jerry Mendez, Louis Muniz, James Nelson, Nick Paloukos, 
Richard Parkin, Gordon Parks, Mark Peck, Oran Peck, William Peglau, 
Kim Plouzek, Morgan Sayes, Greg Smith, Doug Shupe, John Stoner, 
Veda Travis, Dan Varoz, Richard Walton, Scott Warensky, Dave Ward, 
Bud Willoughby, and Mark Zelig of the Salt Lake City Police Depart- 
ment; Glen Bailess, Fred Baird, Bart Bellon, Garth Beckstead, Vem 
Beesley, Dale Bullock, David Burdett, Dick Carlson, Dean Carr, Alex 
Churchich, Dennis Couch, Mike Crebbs, Barry Dalton, Ken Davis, Steve 
Debry, Gaylord Dent, Syd Elliott, Steve Fife, Dan Fletcher, Dennis 
Floto, Ben Forbes, Jim Glover, Jim Grant, Steve Grogan, Marv Hammer, 
Pete Hayward, Tube Horiuchi, Ron Huber, Robert Jack, Brian Jackson, 
Leigh Kilpack, Dennis Knudsen, Rex Nelson, Tim Nielson, Lloyd Pres- 
cott, George Sinclair, Dave Smith, John Terry, Jerry Thompson, Doug 
Townsend, and Larry Wadsworth of the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Of- 
fice; Don Bird of the University of Utah Police Department; and John 
Graber of the Utah Highway Patrol. 

In fairness, we should acknowledge those major players whom we were 
not able to interview. Shannon Flynn and Tom Wilding both demanded 
payment for interviews, a precedent we could not afford to set. LDS 
Church officials in the Public Communications Department were helpful 
in answering routine questions, but currently active Church officials uni- 
formly denied us substantive interviews. Finally, despite the repeated 
assurances of his attorney, we were not able to interview Mark Hofmann 
prior to his first parole hearing on January 29, 1988 — too late for our 
purposes. 

However, we were able to supplement our own interviews not only with 



X ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 



the massive record from the preliminary hearing but also with transcripts 
of interviews conducted by police and prosecutors with all of the princi- 
pals, including Hofmann and Church officials. 

We owe a debt of gratitude to a number of books, including Leonard 
J. Arrington's Brigham Young ; Fawn M. Brodie's No Man Knows My 
History : The Life of Joseph Smith; Linda King Newell and Valeen Tip- 
petts Avery's Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith; and Robert Gottlieb 
and Peter Wiley's America's Saints: The Rise of Mormon Power. We 
benefited immeasurably from Jerald and Sandra Tanner's many publica- 
tions, especially their principal work, Mormonism : Shadow or Reality? As 
a counterweight to the Tanners', we also used The Story of the Latter-day 
Saints , by James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, and The Mormon 
Experience , by Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton. 

In addition, we would like to thank the Sunstone Review for permission 
to reprint excerpts from its interview with Mark Hofmann. 

For their herculean efforts in transcribing hundreds of hours of inter- 
views, we thank all our typists, especially Mari Hoashi and Robert Kurilla. 
Our agent, Connie Clausen, read the book with her usual unerring eye, 
and our editors at Weidenfeld & Nicolson, John Herman and Dan Green, 
gave us that rarest of authors' rewards, genuine editorial support. 

Wherever dialogue appears w ithin quotation marks, it represents an exact 
transcription of a conversation as related by a participant. In a few in- 
stances involving Steve Christensen, the dialogue is based on the recollec- 
tions of friends to whom Christensen related the conversation at the time. 

Wherever dialogue exceeds a few lines, it is based on either a tape 
recording or a stenographic transcription. The sole exception is the con- 
versation between Brent Metcalfe and representatives of LDS Church 
Security. There the dialogue is based on notes made by Metcalfe immedi- 
ately following each session. 

For obvious reasons, we have tried to make clear in the text those few 
instances where we have relied solely on the testimony of Mark Hofmann. 

For a variety of reasons, we have felt it necessary to change the names 
of certain minor players in the Hofmann drama. Deborah Bowdoin, Brad 
Carter, Fred Harmon, Nancy Loden, Carl Lundquist, Eric Palmer, John 
Steiner, and Jill Stone are all fictitious names, as are Paradise Cove and 
Garden Park. 



Contents 



PART ONE: 

BLOOD ATONEMENT 
1 

PART TWO: 

TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 
55 

PART THREE: 

LYING FOR THE LORD 
227 

PART POUR: 

TOTAL FAITH 
265 

PART FIVE: 

CONTENDING WITH LUCIFER 
353 

PART six: 

FOLLOW THE BRETHREN 
397 

INDEX 

447 



PART ONE 



Blood 

Atonement 



i To her friends, she was the perfect Mormon. Generous, thought* 
ful, forgiving, community minded, she represented everything 
that was good and right about their unique religion. If only outsiders, who 
always seemed preoccupied with the Church’s unusual doctrines, mission- 
ary zeal, and Victorian politics, could meet Kathy Sheets. Then they 
would understand the strength and appeal of the Mormon way of life. 

She was certainly no ideologue. The Book of Mormon invariably put 
her to sleep. (Her children once gave her an audio cassette version to play 
in the car, but that proved dangerous as well as boring, so she gave it up.) 
When the “big questions” came up in conversation — Did a tribe of 
Israelites really cross the Atlantic and settle in America? Did Joseph Smith 
really discover gold plates on a hillside in upstate New York in 1823? Was 
he led there by an angel? Was the Book of Mormon really another gospel 
that belonged right beside the Old and New Testaments? — she let others 
fight over them. She preferred Agatha Christie’s mysteries to Joseph 
Smith’s, slept soundly even when she missed church, and, like the rest of 
the country, spent her Sunday evenings watching “Murder, She Wrote.” 
Her only tie to the Mormon power structure was a passing friendship with 
Hugh Pinnock, an old college pal of Gary’s, who had become a bigwig in 
the Church hierarchy. She considered him an insufferable, sanctimonious 
windbag. “He-you rhymes with P.U.,” she would say. 

Kathy’s philosophy, if you could call it that, was summed up in the 
aphorisms she had carved on wooden plaques and nailed up around the 
kitchen and family room: 

THE EARLY BIRD GETS ITS OWN BREAKFAST. 

BE ALERT. THE WORLD NEEDS MORE LERTS. 

FORGET THE DOG, BEWARE OF MEAN KIDS. 

More than ideology, more than catechisms, the signs provided what she 
really needed in the morning: a good laugh. 

She especially needed them this morning, the Tuesday after a long 
Columbus Day weekend in October 1985. Gary had run out the door at 



3 



4 THE MORMON MURDERS 



the ungodly hour of 6:50 to take Jimmy to volleyball practice. (Volleyball 
practice at seven in the morning!) Then Gretchen, her eighteen-year-old 
joy and heartache, had left separately in her own car. God only knew what 
crisis would befall her today. Kathy wondered how she had ever survived 
when there were four kids in the house. 

WHEN YOU REACH THE END OF YOUR ROPE, 

TIE A KNOT AND HANG ON. 

She took advantage of the sudden quiet to sit at the kitchen counter, 
treat herself to a Hershey's Chocolate Kiss, and slowly recover her sense 
of humor. Then she called her sister, Joan Gorton. This was her other joy 
in the morning. “The Lovely Sisters” they called themselves — they had 
seen the name on an old print in a New England hotel. They traveled 
together every chance they got. Kathy would always ask, “Are we sorry 
we didn't bring the men?” and the answer was always, “Not on your life.” 

Without the men, they could play. “Now Joan,” Kathy would say in 
an airport lounge, “you have to look at all the men who come through 
here and find one that you could have an affair with. It has to be someone 
our age. It can't be some young stud.” That made it a frustrating exercise. 
“He might be pretty good,” she would say when a prospect approached, 
“but no. Look at his dumb shoes. ” And then they would laugh for the 
millionth time. 

This morning, Kathy was bursting to tell all about her recent trip to 
New York City with Gary. But somehow the conversation slipped into a 
subject she didn't want to talk about at all: their mother. 

She was living — if you could call it that — in a nursing home and waiting 
at that very moment, they could feel it, for one of them to visit. “You 
just dumped me here,” she would say. It wasn't that they didn't love her, 
it was just so hard to see her lying in the nursing home like a dead leaf 
clinging to the end of a branch, waiting to be blown away. They would 
have preferred to see her living on her own, but that was out of the 
question. After the last operation, she had left some grease on the stove 
and burned her house down. 

The conversation brought the usual rush of guilt — about not seeing her 
more often, about expecting her to die anytime. After her visits to the 
home, Kathy always arranged to stop at her daughter Heidi's house to play 
with her grandchildren. That invariably got her thinking about life again, 
instead of death. 

Joan had to run. Lloyd, her husband, was waiting to take her to the 



BLOOD ATONEMENT 5 



Department of Motor Vehicles. She had let her driver’s license expire. 
Kathy thought that sounded like something Gary would do. They both 
leaped at the opportunity to laugh, when god created man, she was 
only kidding. Joan said she would call back when she returned. 
‘There’s still lots I haven’t asked you about your trip,” she said, signing 
off. 

A few blocks away, Faye Kotter waited. Kathy was late for their morning 
walk. That wasn’t terribly unusual. More than once, Faye, an attractive, 
athletic-looking woman with cinnamon hair, had walked over to the 
Sheets house and rousted Kathy out of bed when she overslept or crept 
back into bed after the house emptied. Faye remembered another of 
Kathy’s signs: there’s a cure for a poor memory but i forget what 
it is. 

Maybe she was still mad about their argument the other day. Faye had 
come unglued when she heard that Kathy’s daughter Gretchen was going 
to a school dance with a black classmate. 

Kathy was shocked. “You mean to tell me that you, Faye. . . .” 

“Listen,” said Faye, suddenly on the defensive. “I have nothing against 
blacks. I don’t have anything against any race. But 1 don’t want my 
children dating them. I don’t wish them ill, of course. 1 mean, I’m against 
slavery . ” 

Foursquare against slavery, thought Kathy. How brave. 

“I just don’t know why she would want to do it,” Faye said. 

“Because he’s a neat kid,” Kathy ventured. 

“I’m sure he’s a neat kid.” 

The discussion had gotten pretty heated. But it wasn’t like Kathy to 
hang on to something that way. 

Maybe she was depressed again. The troubles at Gary’s business, 
CFS — Coordinated Financial Services — had caught her off guard. One 
week she was jetting off in Gary’s private plane and inviting friends to use 
the company condo in downtown Salt Lake City, the next week she was 
buying bread and cheese and “picnicking” in the park. In fact, she and 
Faye had planned to spend the Columbus Day weekend at a condo in 
California, but Kathy had to back out. “We don’t have the money,” she 
confessed. (Another company had picked up the tab for the New York 
trip.) It didn’t help matters that finally, at fifty, her age was catching up 
with her: she was going through menopause. 

Faye had been in the house yesterday when Gary called. All she heard 
Kathy say was, “When will it end?” 



6 THE MORMON MURDERS 



# ❖ # 

Whatever was holding Kathy up, Faye decided to take advantage of the 
delay to put in a load of wash. Just as she finished, about 8:25, Kathy 
appeared, hopping mad. 

“I am so mad at him,” she sputtered, flinging her furry beret onto the 
sofa, exposing her short, salt-and-pepper hair. “He makes me so mad.” 
Tuesday was garbage-pickup day, and Gary had absentmindedly put the 
garbage where the dogs could get at it. And they did. Kathy had spent 
the last fifteen minutes putting trash back in the cans. “If Gary had only 
put it out where he was supposed to,” she fumed, “this wouldn’t have 
happened.” 

In her anger, she had grabbed her gray winter parka, too heavy by half 
for an autumn day that was overcast and cold — you could see your 
breath — but not freezing by Utah standards. Faye had put on two sweat 
shirts. 

Kathy had also brought her car, the one with the license plate urp gag. 
She obviously didn’t want to walk around Naniloa that day, she wanted 
to drive to some other neighborhood and explore. Faye wondered if it had 
anything to do with Gary’s speech in church the previous Sunday. She 
wasn’t there, but by now it was all over the community. As bishop of his 
ward (a kind of lay minister), Gary had told the congregation, “I am going 
through some really hard times, and I just don’t know how things are 
going to look financially. I have a lot to struggle with, and I don’t know 
what’s going to happen.” 

That, of course, started Kathy Sheets’s telephone ringing. “We feel so 
bad for you and Gary. Can we help? What can we do?” It was all meant 
well, but it made Kathy squirm. “I just don’t want people to feel sorry for 
me,” she had said during their walk yesterday. On their return, a friend 
from up the street had approached Kathy and said, “I just have to give 
you a hug.” Faye and Kathy looked at each other with the same thought: 
she had heard Gary’s speech. She knew all about the problems Gary was 
having with CFS. Kathy wanted more than anything to avoid a repeat of 
that scene. 

So they drove to the Cottonwood area, a fashionable suburb nearby, 
parked the car, and started walking. Kathy didn’t talk much — a sure sign 
of depression. Normally, they never ran out of things to gab about. As they 
passed some of the big houses with the huge yards, Kathy finally said, “I 
wonder what the people in these houses are doing?” Faye remembered 
a conversation they had had months before in the same area when Kathy 



BLOOD ATONEMENT 7 



was her more buoyant self, before Gary’s problems had weighed her down. 
“Can’t you just picture the ladies sitting around having a luncheon after 
coming off the tennis court, having their shrimp cocktails and chatter- 
ing. . . .” She had done a whole routine. 

But this gray morning she had a different take on the big houses with 
the huge yards. “You walk along here and you wonder what is going on 
in people’s lives. 1 bet it’s not really as rosy as it looks. People drive by 
our place, and they say, ‘Gary and Kathy have really got it made. They 
have a neat house and wonderful kids.’ ” She paused a long time before 
adding, “If they only knew.” Knowing that Faye and her husband had 
been through difficult times a few years back, Kathy turned to her. “Tell 
me. How bad can it get?” 

Remembering how supportive Kathy had been, Faye offered, “It always 
seems worse than it really is. Anything you are imagining in your mind — 
even if you lose everything — imagining it is worse than actually losing it.” 

That seemed to help, Faye thought, so she continued. “It’s not the end 
of the world. It really isn’t. You live through it. We think we’re so 
attached to everything, but life goes on. And people forget. You are 
worried about what people think. Who cares what people think? They 
think what they think anyway. It doesn’t really matter.” 

Faye wanted to say more, wanted to say the perfect thing, but she 
couldn’t think of it. “It’s a matter of just being here, I guess,” she told 
herself. 

They returned to Naniloa Drive about 9:25. Faye had to get to school. 
At age forty, she had gone back to college at the University of Utah. 
Before getting out of the car, she reached over and took Kathy’s arm. 
“Hey, you going to be okay today?” 

“Yeah.” 

Faye jumped out of the car with a cheery “See you tomorrow, it’ll get 
better,” but couldn’t help feeling guilty. Kathy never stinted on the time 
she gave friends in trouble. 

Instead of going home, Kathy pulled back out onto Holladay Boulevard 
and drove to the bank. The long holiday weekend and the trip to New 
York had left her without cash. On the return trip, she stopped at the 
entrance to the cul-de-sac and took the paper from the mailbox. As she 
pulled her red Audi into the garage, she saw a package halfway onto the 
wooden catwalk that led to the main house. She had been in such a hurry 
on her way out, mad at Gary, she must have missed it. She parked the 
car and walked around to pick it up. 

She had just enough time to tuck it under her arm before it exploded. 



8 THE MORMON MURDERS 



A second later, shreds of her gray parka hung from the tree branches 
overhead. 

It was the second bomb that morning. If Kathy Sheets had turned on the 
radio in her car, she would have heard the frantic news reports that were 
already throwing Salt Lake City into a panic. 



“There's been an explosion at the Judge Building, and there's all 
kinds of people dead." 

The police dispatcher sounded like her chair was on fire. She had to 
be new on the job, Jim Bell thought. Dispatchers were usually the coolest 
of the cool. They prided themselves on their deadpan delivery: “Riot in 
Temple Square, forty-seven dead, Tabernacle on fire, possible UFO, see 
the officer." 

“All kinds of people dead?" Bell repeated to himself. 

“There's at least one dead," she clarified, “but 1 think there's a bunch 
more." Bell guessed it was probably a boiler explosion, something like that. 

“I don't need this today," he mumbled, tugging at his mustache, and 
then, to pacify the dispatcher, “Okay, okay, I'll go on over." 

He really didn't need it. He and his partner, Ken Farnsworth, were just 
coming off two lousy weeks. A homicide detective's nightmare: decom- 
posed body, no leads, probable transient. No one knew who killed him, 
and worse, no one cared. But they had solved it anyway. A bunch of the 
dead man's fellow transients had gotten drunk and shot him four times 
in the head. It was a damn good piece of police work and still no one cared. 
Papers didn't even mention it and TV. . . . The thought of Channel 5's 
Eyewitness News team doing a live report on the decomposed bum was 
enough to make even Jim Bell smile, even this morning. 

On the way to the Judge Building, Bell remembered that the dispatcher 
wasn't a rookie. She was day shift. Not the kind to flinch at nothing. There 
might just be something to this explosion. When Farnsworth turned on 
the radio, it was already the number-one story in town. Then they turned 
left off Third South. 

It was like driving off the edge of the world. 

Every patrol car and fire engine from a fifty-mile radius had converged 




BLOOD ATONEMENT 9 



on the Judge Building. Policemen, firemen, emergency medics, and a 
roaming horde of news people. It was pandemonium, all right, but still 
not enough to agitate Jim Bell — until he saw the dog. It was sitting 
obediently in the back of a big airport truck that pulled up with all lights 
flashing and siren screaming. It was a bomb dog. That made Jim Bell’s 
heart skip a beat. This wasn’t any boiler explosion. 

Inside the lobby, uniformed officer Jim Brand Preeney confirmed it. 
“It’s a bombing, and it’s definitely a homicide, and there’s one guy dead 
upstairs,” he told them. “You can’t go upstairs because the bomb dogs 
and bomb techs are sweeping the whole building.” 

When the bomb crew gave the all clear. Bell and Farnsworth took the 
stairs to the sixth floor. (The elevator had been turned off. Someone said 
the bomber had been seen using it.) The hallway looked like a war zone. 
The walls were blown in, the ceiling blown down, and one door frame 
blown free of the wall. The door had blown off its hinges and dangled from 
the frame. The walls were pockmarked with shrapnel craters. Chunks of 
wallboard and ceiling tile were scattered everywhere. Bell whispered under 
his breath, “We’re in deep shit.” 

The victim lay just inside the doorway, on his back, his hips rotated 
slightly to the right. He had a deep laceration in his chest area, and his 
face was covered with black soot and some blood. It would be hard to 
make a positive I.D. until the medical examiner cleaned him up. (Bell 
didn’t want to rummage for a wallet for fear of disturbing the evidence.) 
The pants covering his right thigh had been ripped open by the explosion, 
and the leg underneath shone bright red in the harsh, artificial light. The 
tips of some of the fingers on his right hand had been blown off in the 
explosion. His right leg from the ankle down was badly mangled. The heel 
of his shoe, and of his foot, was missing. 

Surrounding the body were two six-packs of crumpled Tab cans and the 
remains of a bag of doughnuts. The victim did not have good eating 
habits. 

Bell and Farnsworth herded everyone else off the floor, strung yellow 
Do Not Cross tape, and commandeered an office at the opposite end of 
the hall as a control center. Within minutes, Bob Swehla, a thirteen-year 
man at the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, showed up. 
All bombings are federal cases, ATF cases, so Farnsworth was uncharac- 
teristically deferential. “What do you want to do. Bob?” 

Swehla, like most ATF men, was a professional. None of this inter- 
agency rivalry crap. He was used to cooperating with local law enforce- 
ment. It was a rare bombing that didn’t bend some local noses. The Salt 



10 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Lake police would retain custody of the evidence; ATF would provide its 
laboratory. 

Farnsworth manned the control center while Bell and Swehla laid out 
the bomb scene. They ran fluorescent tape in a grid and made a chart so 
they could note with coordinates where each piece of evidence was found. 
They took Polaroids of the entire area, dozens of them. Bell drew a 
diagram of the floor plan. Each time he picked up a piece of evidence, 
it had to be labeled and a corresponding label placed on the map. He 
started with the big pieces: bomb parts, sack parts, cardboard box parts 
from the device, batteries, wires, chunks of plaster, bits of acoustic tile 
from the ceiling, shards of plastic from the overhead lights. Just the easy 
stuff took two and a half hours. 

Meanwhile, they tried to identify the body. The office where the bomb 
went off had recently been rented by Rigby-Christensen, Inc., a small 
consulting company. Eyewitnesses placed Steve Christensen, one of the 
firm’s principals, in the hall at the time of the explosion. But Bell needed 
a positive I.D. About ten, Shane Jones, a fellow officer and part-time male 
model who happened to know Christensen, provided it. 

"Is it Christensen?” Bell asked. 

Jones forced himself to look. "I can’t tell for sure. It sure looks like 
him.” Then his handsome face clouded over. "I’m sure that’s Steve. His 
face is messed up, but that’s his hair color; it’s his size. I’m sure it’s him.” 

Still, Bell didn’t announce the victim’s name officially until 1:30, when 
the body was finally moved and the wallet taken out of his pocket. 
Farnsworth followed the body to the medical examiner’s office for the 
autopsy. 

Now, with the body gone and the scene to himself, Bell could really 
get to work. With a magnifying glass in one hand and tweezers in the 
other, and a supply of plastic bags and vials, he got down on his knees and 
resumed the search. 

For Jim Bell, this was almost heaven. 

Heaven would have been standing knee-deep in a smelly bog somewhere 
along the shores of the Great Salt Lake at five on a frosty morning in 
November, waiting, 12-gauge shotgun in hand, often for hours at a 
stretch, for that rustle in the underbrush or that commotion in the sky, 
that moment when you raise your gun, aim, and bring down a big one. 
Duck, that is. 

Jim Bell was a duck hunter. 

The boys in the department got a lot of mileage out of that. "Hey, you 



BLOOD ATONEMENT 1 1 



know the only way to give Bell a hard-on?” they would joke. “Quack!” 

During college at Weber State, Bell had gone duck hunting every day 
during the season, scheduling his classes so that he wouldn't miss a single 
frigid morning in the swamps of the Ogden Bird Refuge. When he 
married, his wife Patti found 250 ducks in his deep freezer, dressed and 
ready to cook. 

But jokes or no jokes, everyone agreed that duck hunters made great 
cops. “When you do surveillance work, you want duck hunters because 
they're the only people who can sit still all day and not get bored,” his 
fellow detectives would say. “They're used to it. They don't have any brain 
waves. They're perfectly content looking over the horizon for a speck in 
the sky.” Bell himself admitted that duck hunting was for “slow people,” 
people who could wait, people with patience and persistence, people who 
kept their own pace. 

That was Jim Bell. 

His parents had found that out early — to their dismay. Unlike most 
of the cops in his department who came from cop families, Bell was a 
crossover from the real world. His father was an executive with the 
Steelcase Corp., his brother also a prosperous businessman. Jim was 
supposed to follow in their footsteps, but he had his own ducks to 
hunt. 

Being the only cop in the family didn't faze Jim. Nothing fazed Jim. 
It didn't even faze him when fellow detectives called him “Stretch” — an 
arch reference to his height, five feet, seven inches. As the shortest in his 
family, he was used to ribbing. He just kept at it, calmly ignoring the jokes, 
pursuing the cases — the more tedious, the more complicated, the more 
elusive, the better. 

Like the murders of several young women in the Salt Lake area: they 
seemed unrelated at first, just random murders without rape. But the 
M.O. was precisely the same, and Bell was convinced a serial murderer 
was responsible. So he began his methodical pursuit, canvassing police 
departments across the country for similar crimes, similar M.O.s, any- 
thing that might tie in to his killer. He called agencies in Utah, Colorado, 
New Mexico, and Wyoming and brought officers from all the jurisdictions 
together for a meeting. Right away, two murders in Wyoming were 
solved. One of the cops had interviewed a man in a jail in Nephi, Utah, 
who confessed to killing two people in Wyoming. 

That was the way Jim Bell liked to work: slowly, meticulously, patiently, 
tenaciously. He might have to spend all day wading through a swamp, but 
he had 250 ducks in the freezer to show for it. 



12 THE MORMON MURDERS 



* * * 

So Bell moved slowly across the floor on his knees, picking up every 
fragment of evidence with tweezers and putting it in a plastic bag or a 
vial or a paper bag and carefully pinpointing its location on his map. In 
the end, there were 164 items on the floor plan: among them, pieces of 
wire, an Estes rocket igniter, and a mercury switch. 

When that was done, he cut away pieces of the carpet and put them 
in plastic bags. Residue from the bomb powder was sealed in paint 
cans. Then he tore the hall apart looking for shrapnel. The bomb had 
been packed with two-and-a-half-inch carpentry nails — this bomber 
meant to kill — and the force of the explosion had driven them into 
walls, through the ceiling, and deep into the subflooring. Bell dug out 
as many as he could, using a huge pair of pliers on the stubborn ones, 
and left the rest. With a broom, he swept up small pieces of debris, 
and then used a vacuum cleaner to suck up anything he might have 
missed. Then he went back over the key areas with a magnifying glass 
for one last look. 

Then, just to be sure, he arranged to have a search warrant issued for 
Christensen's office. They hauled away fourteen filing cabinets, a com- 
puter system, and fifty cardboard boxes full of materials. Eventually, he 
would have to wade through all that as well. 

At 10:15 that night, after more than twelve hours, most of them spent 
on his knees, Jim Bell returned to his office to begin the paperwork. 



For anyone else, the autopsy of Steve Christensen's body would 
have been a nightmare. In the time it usually took to complete 
the exam, Dr. Steve Sweeney, the state's chief medical examiner, hadn't 
even cleaned away the coagulated blood in order to see what he was doing. 
Pieces of evidence had to be pried out of the cavern where a chest should 
have been: lengths of wire, bomb parts, bits of a battery, and huge jagged 
shards of metal pipe. One piece proved particularly reluctant. It had 
entered through the chest and lodged under the armpit, where it bulged 
up beneath the skin, pressing the body out of shape. And there were nails 
everywhere. Some had gone in sideways, others straight, like arrows. One 




BLOOD ATONEMENT B 

had entered through the left eye and lodged in the brain. That, at least, 
had killed him instantly. 

Through it all, Ken Farnsworth’s eyes never left the table. 

For Farnsworth, gore was just a part of the game. His stomach for “goo 
spots” was legendary — not just dead bodies, not just decomposed dead 
bodies, but goo spots — bodies that have been left so long that they don’t 
even look like bodies anymore, but more like puddles of slime. In the 
never-ending police search for litmus tests of machismo, tolerance for goo 
spots ranked high, and Ken Farnsworth held the departmental record. 

Autopsies were his forte. One photograph that made the rounds 
showed the medical examiner cutting a body with one hand and holding 
his nose with the other while Ken leans over the rail, chin in hand, utterly 
fascinated, filling his nostrils with the experience. Someone had posted a 
cartoon on the wall showing two vultures sitting on the carcass of a dead 
hippo. “What could be better?” says one vulture to the other. “A hot day 
and a bloated body.” 

But the boys in the department had it all wrong. It wasn’t the goo spots 
themselves that made Ken’s day. It was the thrill they gave him — the 
sheer adrenaline rush he got from staring at something so horrible, so 
repulsive, so shocking. 

It was the same rush he used to get as a patrolman. He loved the 
“controlled chaos” of patrol work, never knowing what was going to hit 
you next. He still told the story (a way of reliving the rush) about his brush 
with death — the ultimate adrenaline high. It was early morning, that last 
bleary-eyed hour before the end of an all-night shift. He had been on the 
force only eighteen months and was headed back to the station when he 
heard some shots just outside the Beehive Buck Club, a black hangout in 
downtown Salt Lake. He pulled around by the Greyhound bus terminal 
and waited for backup. At the end of an alley, he heard some arguing and 
saw two silhouettes dipping and dodging behind a pickup truck. He got 
out of his car, carrying a 12-gauge shotgun. 

Then he did something only a rookie would do. He called out after 
them. They ducked out of sight, and he ran after them down the half-lit 
alley. When he got to the comer, he stepped out from behind a brick wall, 
completely exposing himself. Ten feet away, one of the men was standing 
there screaming at two others who were behind the pickup. He was 
holding a 410-bore shotgun, but it was pointing down. 

It was a classic “shoot/don’t shoot” situation. A split-second decision. 
If he shot, it would be to kill. That was the rule. Only cops on TV shoot 



14 THE MORMON MURDERS 



to maim. The regulation was three shots: two in the chest, can't miss; then 
one in the head, no surprises. Farnsworth wanted to reverse the order, to 
shoot the guy in the face. No. A shotgun shoots high. Hit him in the 
throat. That can't fail. A shotgun blast from a 12-gauge, and he's history. 

The gun was racked in, cocked, safety off, ready to blast off. If the guy 
moved that 410 even slightly, Farnsworth would blow his head off. No 
time for a warning. The 410 started to move up. Farnsworth's inner alarm 
said, “Shoot!" 

But nothing happened. Something inside stopped his trigger finger at 
the last nanosecond. 

The man dropped his gun. 

He had gotten the same rush when he worked undercover for seven 
months in Utah's first sting operation. That was one long adrenaline high, 
from the time he walked into a meeting with one of the nastiest drug 
dealers in the Southwest, fully wired, and the guy started to frisk him, to 
the time a crazy lady, strung out on cocaine, held him at knife point. It 
got so bad — or good — that he was actually sleeping with his hand on a 
gun on his nightstand. After that, homicide duty, with its goo spots, was 
a definite comedown. 

He still got the old rush from shooting his gun. Although the product 
of a solid police family (three relatives on the force), Farnsworth didn't 
fire a shot until he was twenty-two. But once he started, he couldn't stop. 
He loved the noise, the jerk of the recoil, the little black hole in the target 
a split-second later. He fired off twenty thousand rounds a year to main- 
tain his standing as one of the top 100 marksmen in the country. His wall 
full of trophies had earned him the nickname — everybody on the force 
had a nickname — “Trophy Boy." 

He got the same rush from women. Not from women per se, but from 
dating them, dating new ones as often as possible, dating two or more at 
a time. He never seemed to run out of them. At six feet, three inches tall 
and 1 50 pounds, with a sharp wit, remarkable intelligence, and winning 
grin, Farnsworth was that rarest of commodities in marriage-mad Utah, 
an attractive bachelor over thirty. And he had every intention of staying 
that way. Friends attributed it to his two years in France when he was 
a younger man. Despite his own family's rather loose Mormon affiliation, 
he had gone on a mission to convert the French to Mormonism, and 
instead had been converted to everything French: French food, French 
wine, French women, even French philosophy. Somehow the Mormon 
ideal of wife, family, and hearth had never looked as good to him since 
he had seen Paris. 



BLOOD ATONEMENT 1 5 



Besides, there was no rush in family life. “If they just gave me bed and 
food/’ Farnsworth would say of police work, “I’d work here for nothing.” 

He left the autopsy room at University Hospital about six that evening 
and headed back to the department carrying the blood-covered nails, wires, 
and clothing in paper bags. He arrived in time to catch some details of the 
other bombing that day, the one at the Sheets residence in Holladay. That 
one happened in the county, not the city, so it wasn’t their problem, thank 
God. They had enough on their hands. He also saw his boss, Chief Bud 
Willoughby, on the evening news trying to calm a panic-stricken city that 
had already been dubbed “the Beirut of the West.” 

A huge man with big, clear eyes, startling energy, and rare patience, 
Willoughby had cop in every capillary of his bloodline: father, brothers, 
even his mother was a cop. That probably explained his gut approach to 
crime solving. He had no ideology, no fancy theories. His only rule was 
“Whatever it takes is what it takes.” If his men needed more money, more 
manpower, even more time to do a job, he fought for it. He had even been 
known to consult hypnotists and psychics when all else failed. 

If Willoughby had a flaw, it was overeagemess, especially when dealing 
with press and public. No one would forget his efforts to calm the city, 
especially its tiny black community, when two black joggers were killed. 
The murders are not racially motivated, he announced confidently. That 
turned out to be dead wrong. The murders had, in fact, been committed 
by an avowed white racist, Joseph Paul Franklin. Willoughby was forced 
to eat his words — in court no less — when the defense attorney called him 
to the stand. 

Now he was at it again. 

The bomb that killed Kathy Sheets was meant for her husband Gary, 
Willoughby explained. Both he and Steve Christensen were officers in an 
investment company, Coordinated Financial Services. Recently, CFS had 
lost a lot of money, and a lot of its investors were mad about it — mad 
enough to kill. Obviously, they had hired professionals, Mafia types, to do 
the job. The bombs were sophisticated devices, undoubtedly the work of 
paid assassins. 

There was no crazed bomber on the loose randomly killing passersby, 
Willoughby concluded reassuringly. This was strictly business. To empha- 
size the point. Captain Bob Jack of the sheriff’s office held up an inch- 
thick computer readout of three thousand CFS investors and said, “Here 
are the suspects in the case.” 

That sounded fine, but Farnsworth hoped this didn’t turn out to be 
another of Willoughby’s faux pas. 



16 THE MORMON MURDERS 



$ $ $ 

Farnsworth went home about 4:30 the next morning and grabbed an hour 
and a half of sleep. Jim Bell, who had come into the office around ten 
p.m., stayed the rest of the night, although at one point he lay down under 
the table and closed his eyes for a few minutes. 



J. Gary Sheets, a gray-haired man with soft, friendly features and 
JL dark eyes, stood in the pandemonium of the Salt Lake County 
Sheriff's Office in Holladay and cried. “We think it was a professional hit 
man, Gary,” a homicide detective tried to tell him. “A disgruntled inves- 
tor in your company, probably." Kathy's killing had been a mistake: the 
bomb had been intended for him. Somebody wanted both him and Steve 
Christensen dead. Until a few months ago, when he left to form his own 
consulting firm, Christensen had been the president of Sheets's company, 
CFS. 

A few minutes later, the detective overheard Sheets telling a friend, “I 
did it. My friend's dead and my wife's dead because of a situation I got 
them into." 

Visitors came and went and he hugged each one and cried some more. 
Church leaders called and so did Senator Orrin Hatch — Sheets had 
worked on his last campaign. Hatch gave his condolences and said he had 
called the head of the FBI and told him to “Get those bastards." Sheets 
repeated the story to everyone who came in after that. He seemed un- 
touched by the police warnings — “A professional hit isn't paid until the 
job's done." The killer would try again. But he welcomed the company 
of the bodyguard assigned by the sheriff's office, a policeman who had 
once moonlighted at CFS. 

Strangely, Sheets wanted to know about the condition of the bodies: 
“Is it true that the blast took off the upper portion?" he asked Lieutenant 
Ben Forbes of the homicide division. “Is it true that it literally cut Steve's 
body in half?" 

“1 didn't see the body," said Forbes, “but that's what I under- 
stand." 

“Is that about the same way Kathy was found?" 



BLOOD ATONEMENT 17 

‘Tm really not sure, Mr. Sheets, but I am sure that your wife didn’t 
suffer at all.” 

Then suddenly Sheets’s mind was in another place. He looked at the 
can of Cherry Coke in his hand. ‘This is going to be the biggest seller 
that Coca-Cola has,” he said with genuine wonder. “This Cherry Coke 
is really going to sell. This is going to be the biggest seller ever.” 

Fifty years earlier, a towheaded little boy edged nearer a coffin, trying to 
get a look at the beautiful, serene young blond woman inside. He under- 
stood only vaguely why she was there and why she was so still. When Doc 
Gledhill slipped into the back of the crowded parlor to pay his respects, 
the little boy ran to him and hugged his leg. “Please bring back my 
mommy,” he cried. “Please bring back my mommy!” 

The boy was Gary Sheets. He was three years old. 

There was no father for Gary to hug. Lloyd Sheets, a traveling salesman, 
had passed through Richfield, a small town in southern Utah, only long 
enough to fall in love with and marry a beautiful blond girl named Iris 
Peterson. He was the first man who had paid much attention to her. 
Despite her beauty, boys had avoided the local lame girl with the withered 
leg, a legacy of childhood polio. But Iris Peterson was an incurable opti- 
mist. Instead of dating, she learned to play the mandolin, the ukelele, and 
the banjo. And when Lloyd Sheets left her, soon after their son Gary was 
bom in 1934, she set her sights on business college, polio or no. 

She was on her way there when she contracted pneumonia and died. 

Three months after taking in his orphaned grandson, George Peterson, 
a local businessman, died of a heart attack. That left Gary and his grand- 
mother Eva. 

It was Gary’s first partnership. Before long, he was doing her taxes, 
managing her property, and running the businesses George had left her. 
Spurred on by his mother’s Mormon faith, his father’s salesman genes, his 
grandmother’s relentless optimism — “You can do anything you want to 
do,” she exhorted him — and the memory of the blond woman in the 
coffin, he started running and never stopped. 

In college, he sold rattraps to farmers. Then he moved up to ency- 
clopedias. His Sigma Chi fraternity brothers at the University of Utah 
used to joke there was nothing Gary Sheets couldn’t sell. In the world’s 
oldest profession, he was a natural. A salesman, not a hustler. Someone 
who says, “I really believe in this product,” not “Here’s an opportunity 
to con some people.” Someone, in the words of an associate, who “cons 
himself first.” 



18 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Then he tried selling real estate and fell on his face. The problem was 
that he couldn’t work over the phone, in an office, across a desk. He was, 
at heart, a direct salesman. He had to be there, with the client, hands- 
on — hugging, grasping, touching, stroking. He had to put his arm around 
the customer, wrap him in that warmth, that optimism, that guileless 
sincerity. Let him do that, and there was nothing he couldn’t sell. So he 
went back to encyclopedias, door to door, and the income poured in again, 
enough to buy a first house for his young bride, Kathy Webb, whom he 
had almost refused to marry because she wasn’t blond. 

Insurance was next, working for an old fraternity brother, Hugh Pin- 
nock, who was smart enough to know a good thing when he saw it. But 
insurance was too easy for a natural like Gary Sheets. By the 1960$, the 
action was in securities so he went after a securities license. Pinnock, who 
had ambitions of his own, found the competition from his brightest young 
salesman too hot for comfort and told him that if he moonlighted in 
securities, Connecticut Mutual would have to let him go. But there was 
no stopping Gary Sheets. In 1966 he turned in his resignation and set up 
his own brokerage agency. For anyone else, it would have been an unnerv- 
ing gamble, a leap into the unknown, but Gary didn’t even blink. He knew 
it would work. 

Within two years, he had sold so many securities to so many clients that 
he was ready to move into another new area: total financial planning. 
That’s where the really big money is, Gary said. He wanted to be where 
the sales were hottest. After only three years with a big, Atlanta-based 
company, he was ready to strike out on his own again. With two friends, 
he formed his own financial services company: Coordinated Financial 
Services. 

Nothing could stop him now. Not even timid partners. In 1975 he was 
ready to expand to meet the market demand, but his partners balked. 
They weren’t naturals. They weren’t blessed with Gary’s boundless opti- 
mism. So one day, they locked themselves in an office and knelt down to 
pray. Then they began dividing the company. At the end of the day, they 
called in an attorney to add the boilerplate to the deal that God had made. 

Gary Sheets and CFS were now on their own. 

It was beautiful to watch. In ward houses and on college campuses 
throughout Utah, Nevada, Colorado, and Texas, there was Gary Sheets, 
in his blue suit, red tie, and white starched shirt “talking sense” about 
investments. Part teacher, part cheerleader, part seducer, he talked profits 
and portfolios the way Moses talked milk and honey. He would lead them 



BLOOD ATONEMENT 19 



out of the Wilderness of taxes, over the River of deductibility, and into 
the Promised Land of high returns. You could practically hear the audi- 
ence gasp. They were mostly doctors, drummed up with an extensive 
advance promotional campaign, including good word of mouth on the 
Mormon grapevine. 

Not everyone there was Mormon. Gary kept a copy of The Best Doctors 
in the U.S. on his desk, making extensive marginal notes beside the names 
of prominent individuals, knowing that for every one of the big fish he 
could attract, a school of M.D.s would follow. “Physicians are suckers for 
scams,” said a CFS employee, using language Gary would never have 
used. “They've got a lot of money and very little time to manage it. So 
they get very excited, overly excited, by high rates of return.” 

They couldn't wait to give Gary their money. 

These investment seminars, offered free throughout the Southwest, 
became the lifeblood of CFS. At the end of a lecture, Gary would hand 
out business cards to anyone who wanted the lecturer's expertise “on a 
more personal and permanent basis.” Out of a typical audience of sixty 
or seventy, usually twelve or more would sign up. Then those clients would 
bring in other clients. The money poured in like the Red Sea on the 
armies of Pharaoh. 

Sheets hired a brigade of bright young men to help invest the money, 
syndicate deals, form partnerships, and manage properties: men like Steve 
Christensen, an eager, inexperienced twenty-eight-year-old who quickly 
became Gary's “boy wonder.” More deals demanded more salesmen to 
bring in more money to fund more deals. It seemed that God truly was 
with him. Sheets turned the day-to-day management over to others so he 
could concentrate on sales and on reaching his new personal goal: $1 
million in commissions — $10 million in sales. The new men, like Chris- 
tensen, were all “high-quality people,” as Gary liked to say, all active in 
the Mormon Church. By the early eighties, CFS had grown from two 
employees to 120, total syndications to almost 150, net worth to $6 
million. The internal rate of return was running at a stratospheric 30 
percent. To congratulate itself, the company bought the old Auerbach's 
Department Store building downtown and converted it, sparing no ex- 
pense, into a gleaming new “headquarters” where the men were always 
handsome, the secretaries always “immaculately decked out,” the plants 
always green, the restrooms always clean, and the receptionists always 
answered the phone cheerfully. 

Even the building, where salesmen (they were called consultants) 
brought admiring clients, was a sharp investment. According to John 



20 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Naisbitt's megaseller, Megatrends , Salt Lake City was one of the country's 
“top ten growth areas.” Among the others who thought so was Adnan 
Khashoggi, the Saudi billionaire. His Triad America Company had just 
bought a huge chunk of downtown with plans for an immense new 
multi-use development. With new corporate offices for American Express, 
Sperry-Rand, and Western Airlines just opening up, downtown Salt Lake 
City was taking off the way Denver had ten years before. It was heady 
company for Gary Sheets's CFS, but anything seemed possible. 

By 1983 Gary was earning $600,000 a year in commissions. It wasn't 
yet his goal of $1 million, but it was enough to build a beautiful rambling 
house by a fast-running creek in the toniest section of the tony suburb of 
Holladay. It was enough to buy fistfuls of season tickets to Utah Jazz 
basketball games, and to buy himself a seat on the board of the Utah 
Symphony — no one seemed to care that he didn't know anything about 
music. It was enough to give tens of thousands away to charities of every 
stripe, including $10,000 to the Osmond Foundation, set up by the 
singing Osmond family to benefit children's hospitals (a gift for which 
they made him chairman of the foundation). It was enough to merit 
glowing profiles in Church-owned publications like the Deseret News and 
evenings with Orrin Hatch, one of the many Republican politicians whose 
campaigns he supported generously. 

But the choicest recognition came from even higher up. In April 1983, 
the same year he made $600,000, Gary Sheets was “called” by God to 
serve as a bishop in the Mormon Church. And there were whispers that 
one day, if his star continued to rise (and his fortune continued to accumu- 
late), Gary Sheets might become a General Authority. 



In 1837, a newspaper editor in Kirtland, Ohio, criticized Joseph 
Smith and the local Mormon community for “hav[ing] too much 
worldly wisdom connected with their religion — too great a desire for the 
perishable riches of the world — holding out the idea that the kingdom of 
Christ is to be composed of Teal estate, herds, flocks, silver, gold,' etc., 
as well as of human things.” 

On a cool Southern California night almost 150 years later, prosperous 
Mormons from all over the Los Angeles area filled a meeting hall in 




BLOOD ATONEMENT 21 



Pasadena. They had come from as far away as La Jolla to hear G. Homer 
Durham, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, address his fellow 
saints. Only the Council of the Twelve, known as the Apostles, and the 
three members of the First Presidency, including the Prophet, were more 
exalted. Together, these eighty-five men who governed the Mormon 
Church were known as the General Authorities. 

When Durham spoke, he spoke with true authority, authority rooted 
in both this world and the next. His opposition to liberal politics, to the 
ERA, and to Democrats in general was well known and widely admired 
among the faithful. Many thought: If only the men in Sacramento or 
Washington had such vision. 

The subject of the sermon tonight was money. Not the evils of money, 
but the joys. The sixty-nine-year-old Durham praised local Church mem- 
bers both for their devotion to God and for their balance sheets. He 
congratulated them not just because of their good works, which were 
considerable, but also because they belonged to one of the most affluent 
stakes in Mormondom. That, said Durham, was a direct reflection of 
God's favor, a sign that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 
was, in fact, the true Church of Christ on earth. 

At each accolade, the crowd squirmed deeper and deeper into the 
comfortable seats. Elder Durham had apparently failed to see, scattered 
among the $400 suits and designer dresses, a considerable number of 
darker faces wearing clothes from Sears and K mart, most of them recent 
immigrants from Mexico and other Central American countries. After the 
speech, the word was discreetly passed to Temple Square in Salt Lake 
City: please don't send us G. Homer Durham again. 

Durham wasn't wrong. , he was just too blatant. Everyone knew that the 
Church equated bank accounts and blessings; that, as one Church official 
put it, “The accumulation of wealth" was “a sacred obligation." Why else 
would God call only successful businessmen to positions of authority? 
Why else would Church publications so relentlessly profile Mormon suc- 
cess stories like George Romney, J. Willard Marriott, and the Osmonds? 
Why else would the Church be so ironfisted about tithing, the rule that 
every good Mormon give 10 percent of his income to the Church? 

Everyone knew where these vast sums of tithing money went. Not to 
orphanages or old-age homes or hospitals. Not to young missionaries in 
the field — they were generally expected to pay their own expenses. Not 
to welfare or disaster relief. In times of crisis, Mormons were expected to 
look to one another for help, not to the Church's tithing chest. 

Everyone knew that Church money went into the Church's business, 



22 THE MORMON MURDERS 



which was business : television stations, newspapers, banks, farms, 
ranches, real estate, and a stock portfolio to match that of the government 
of Saudi Arabia. The Church was, in fact, a giant conglomerate, freed by 
its religious, “nonprofit” status from both reporting requirements and 
taxes. 

God had indeed been generous with his favor — from $15 billion to $50 
billion generous, depending on who did the estimating. Whatever it was, 
it was a truly inspirational figure. More than a few of the Brethren agreed 
with Durham that “if [the Church] is rich, it must be true,” and must 
eventually triumph over other churches. Fifty billion compounded at 9.2 
percent, tax free. In a few hundred years, the Mormon Church wouldn't 
need to convert the world, it would own the world. 

With the Lord on his board, there was nothing Gary Sheets couldn't do. 
What worked for real estate, the bulk of CFS's investments, would un- 
doubtedly work for other investments as well. Besides, good real estate 
deals were getting harder to find. Investors were eager to branch out into 
new areas. If CFS didn't oblige them, some other outfit would. The magic 
word became “diversify.” Soon Gary Sheets, encyclopedia salesman, was 
doing deals in alternative fuels, gold mines, airplanes, horse-breeding 
farms in Kentucky, and express lube shops in Las Vegas. 

Instead of hiring people with expertise, Gary sent his able young men 
in their starched white shirts and Temple garments out on week-long 
“get-acquainted” trips. When they returned, they became in-company 
experts, each with his own pet project. Somebody thought solar energy 
looked promising, so CFS bought $700,000 worth of solar panels. The 
plan was to rent them out to heavy users of electricity, meter their usage, 
and charge only 70 percent of what the big utilities charged. It sounded 
fail-safe. Rich James, CFS's president, had seen a high-tech waterslide, or 
“hydrotube,” at a mall in Portland, Oregon, and thought it was “neat.” 
So CFS syndicated a $750,000 investment in a similar slide for a mall in 
Denver. They bought airplanes — a Citation and a Lear — for a million and 
a half. Nobody knew anything about planes, but a good Mormon pilot, 
Brent Bateman, told them they could make a killing by leasing the planes 
to companies like Purolator and stars like Robert Redford. Their eyes 
twinkled. 

One of CFS's salesmen put the company in touch with John Steiner, 
the son of the salesman's bishop and a missionary companion. Steiner had 
a Thoroughbred breeding farm in Kentucky that he was syndicating. 
Investors could buy a piece of a stud, and each time it bred — about forty 



BLOOD ATONEMENT 23 



times a year on average — they would get a piece of the fee, plus a tax break 
(if they borrowed) and depreciation. A CFS entourage went to Kentucky 
to see for themselves — and, as long as they were there, take in the Ken- 
tucky Derby. 

They liked what they saw. Steiner was just the kind of guy CFS 
admired: so young, so good looking (in the white-bread, Midwestern 
insurance man way that so many Mormons are), so all-American, so 
Mormon. His operation was first class: fancy hotel, fine restaurant, a huge 
house with a swimming pool and a beautiful wife. And the guy was only 
thirty-three. CFS officers bought into the deal and came away thinking: 
Yet another gilt-edged investment found through the Mormon network. 
It had to be divine intervention. 

Eric Palmer, a former mortician or shoe salesman, depending on whom 
you spoke to, introduced Gary and CFS to the wonders of ethanol, a 
gasoline substitute distilled from grain. The numbers were staggering. 
Because the government offered an 11 percent alternative-energy tax 
credit on top of the usual 10 percent investment tax credit, an investor 
could put $ 1 0,000 into an ethanol plant, borrow $90,000, and get $2 1 ,000 
in tax credits the first year. So you could actually make money by investing. 
Then every year after that, you took out $10,000 in profits and saved 
$10,000 in taxes. This was truly a deal made in heaven. 

Just to be sure, CFS sent a private investigator down to Portales, New 
Mexico, where Palmer already had one plant in operation. But when the 
investigator returned with grave doubts about Palmer's reliability, CFS 
officers were too busy fighting one another over who would get what cut 
of the action to notice. (Gary grabbed much of it for himself.) Besides, 
Kirk Rector, who put the deal together, was a smart, hard-working, young 
Mormon — the son of a General Authority, no less. Within a few months, 
CFS had plans for five ethanol plants in the works. 

Meanwhile, the company continued to acquire commercial property 
despite a softening market. The men responsible for bringing properties 
into the company continued to pitch them — they made their commis- 
sions whether or not a property subsequently made money — and Gary 
continued to buy, sometimes over the objections of his own acquisitions 
board. After all, he had the magic touch. 

But even if there were a few doubting Thomases, Gary Sheets was hardly 
the only officer who felt that CFS couldn't fail. 

At a meeting to discuss the acquisition of a property called Paradise 
Cove, John Conrad, a young Mormon salesman who had only recently 



24 THE MORMON MURDERS 



joined the company, looked at the projections and scratched his head. 
"What's wrong with me?" Conrad wondered. "This property is a dog. 
Why do 1 look at these numbers and see absolutely no purpose for anyone 
to buy it? What have 1 missed?" 

The numbers showed a $52,000 investment that after five years, even 
if one accepted the projections — a true act of faith — would repay only 
$54,000 in a cash sale. "Why was this property purchased?" Conrad asked 
at the next meeting. "I am apparently missing something. Can somebody 
explain it to me? Why would 1 want to buy this thing? Two thousand over 
$50,000 over five years? — according to your figures. No cash flow in the 
interim. A little tax savings, but no profitability." 

"We stole this property," said the man from the real estate committee. 
"We bought it cheap." 

"Then 1 assume you're planning to sell it cheap," said Conrad, "be- 
cause these numbers don't show the windfall return we should expect if 
we're buying it cheap. What am I missing?" 

Just then, Steve Christensen walked in. 

Someone said, "Steve, you were down there, explain it. Tell us about 
Paradise Cove." 

"We stole it," said Christensen. 

"Can you elaborate?" asked Conrad, still calm. "Where is that reflected 
in the numbers?" 

Just then Tom Heal walked in. Christensen turned to Heal. "Tom. Tell 
us about Paradise Cove." 

"We stole it," said Heal. 

Perhaps they believed, Conrad thought, that if they said it often 
enough, that would make it true. 

When an early real estate project went into bankruptcy, it wasn't a 
mistake, it was merely a "setback." To prove it, CFS resyndicated the 
property, Garden Park, signing on new investors to bail out the old ones. 
When profits started slipping, the company merely increased its share in 
partnership investments, from 2 percent to 3 percent. 

When salesmen like Conrad started asking too many questions, Gary 
decided that the solution was to give them less information. What they 
really needed was more positive thinking. More faith. "If you give them 
facts," a company attorney warned him, "all they'll do is ask questions. 
They’re not smart enough to understand the deal anyway. You put the 
deal together, and just don't tell them any more than you have to. Just 
go in and sell them the deal. Then you go run it and make it a success." 



BLOOD ATONEMENT 25 



At a meeting to sell the Garden Park resyndication scheme to the 
salesmen, Conrad raised his hand again: “Gary, give us some facts. Give 
us some numbers. I haven't heard anything said that would convince me 
that this is a good investment. And please don't give me a sales job. No 
more hype." 

Gary stood up, pointed his finger at Conrad, and said, “John. I have 
to do a sales job on you, because you're so damned stupid you can't 
recognize the best investment your clients will ever put their money into." 

End of discussion. How do you challenge someone who has been called 
by God? “We were dealing with prominent members of the Church," 
says Conrad, a devout Mormon. “1 admit that I put some faith in that. 
I felt that these guys were trying to do what was right. I knew I wasn't 
associated with a bunch of crooks." 



O The good Mormons of Kirtland, Ohio, undoubtedly told them- 
selves the same thing when Joseph Smith, Prophet and founder 
of the Church, opened a bank. 

Smith knew a good thing when he saw it, and in 1836, the best thing 
by far was land speculation. With the westward drive, land values were 
shooting up at such a frenzied rate that fortunes could be made virtually 
overnight. By the mid-thirties Smith had already spent every dollar he had 
buying up land around the Mormon community in Kirtland, hoping that 
a railroad would run a line somewhere across his property and make him 
a rich man. When he ran out of his own money, he started looking for 
other people's money to use. The best way to attract money, of course, 
was to open a bank, and in 1836, coincidentally, the Lord commanded 
him to do just that. 

There was just one problem: you had to have money to open a bank. 
Never a stickler for details, Smith went out and borrowed the money to 
open the Kirtland Safety Society Bank and have plates made up for 
printing the currency the bank would issue. To assure depositors that their 
money would be secure, he filled several strong boxes with sand, lead, old 
iron, and stones, then covered them with a single layer of bright fifty-cent 
silver coins. Prospective customers were brought into the vault and shown 
the heaping chests of silver. "The effect of those boxes was like magic," 



26 THE MORMON MURDERS 



claimed one witness. “They created general confidence in the solidity of 
the bank, and that beautiful paper money went like hot cakes. For about 
a month it was the best money in the country/' 

Smith wasn't fazed a bit when the state legislature refused to grant his 
bank a charter. With only a few additions to the printing plates (why 
waste the money to have new ones made up?), the Kirtland Safety Society 
Bank became the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Co. As far as 
Smith was concerned, a company, unlike a bank, didn't need a charter. 

The faithful, of course, didn't care what it was called. It was enough 
for them that the bank was run by Joseph Smith. What safer place 
could they put their money than in the hands of the Prophet? Lest they 
miss the message, Smith wrote an article for the Mormon newspaper 
inviting his flock to “take stock in our safety society. . . . We would 
remind them also of the sayings of the prophet Isaiah, . . . which are as 
follows: ‘Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, 
and to bring thy sons from afar, their silver and their gold (not their 
bank notes) with them, unto the name of the Lord thy God, . . ." Smith 
added the parenthetical to the biblical text as a discreet reminder that 
his bank wanted deposits in hard coin, not in notes drawn on other 
banks. 

After only a few months of operation, the Anti-Banking Co. collapsed. 
The single layer of silver coins didn't last long once the notes started 
coming in. Meanwhile, the Ohio state legislature, unamused by Smith’s 
semantic games, charged him with operating an unchartered bank and 
fined him $1,000. To collect, however, they had to get in line with the 
other investors who were suing Smith (thirteen suits were filed against him 
between June 1837 and April 1839). On the night of January 12, 1838, 
Smith, like many other speculators, declared bankruptcy with his feet, 
fleeing Kirtland with his followers under cover of darkness. In his imagina- 
tive account of the event, Smith later claimed he left Kirtland “to escape 
mob violence, which was about to burst upon us under the color of legal 
process to cover the hellish designs of our enemies." 

To prevent his creditors from hounding him to his new home in 
Nauvoo, Illinois, Smith declared legal bankruptcy, but not before transfer- 
ring many of his assets to his wives, children, friends, and associates — 
some 105 people in all. (In 1844, the year of Smith's death, these transfers 
were declared fraudulent and illegal.) 

“If Joseph Smith were alive today," says a prominent Mormon busi- 
nessman, “he wouldn’t start a religion, he would be a leverage buyout king 
on Wall Street.” 



BLOOD ATONEMENT 27 



* * * 

A hundred and fifty years later, the U.S. Attorney’s Office declared Salt 
Lake City “the fraud capital of the nation.” Between 1980 and 1983, the 
Utah U.S. attorney estimated that about ten thousand investors lost 
approximately $200 million in fraudulent deals. Many of them involved 
or implicated Church figures, even General Authorities. Scam artists had 
a name for it: “the Mormon marketing strategy.” Any scheme, they 
discovered, no matter how outrageous or flimsy, would fly if it could be 
tied to the Church — What safer place to put one’s money than in the 
hands of the Prophet? Investing money in a scheme that had the blessing 
of a General Authority was as good as handing it to the Lord. 

So eager were many Mormon faithful to accumulate wealth (and bless- 
ings), and so trusting of Church leaders, that they would buy the Brooklyn 
Bridge — twice. Or better yet, “gold certificates” worth, according to the 
nice young Mormon man who sold them, a hundred or even a thousand 
times the up-front investment. When he was finally caught, the nice 
young man had unloaded $612 billion worth of bogus certificates — an 
amount equal to half the national debt. “What you have out here,” says 
a local newspaper reporter, “is a bunch of people who are basically edu- 
cated from birth to unquestioningly believe what they’re told, and they 
do, right up through adulthood. The conditions for fraud are perfect.” In 
1981 alone, Utah was third in the nation for business-loan defaults and 
suffered eleven major business frauds. SEC officials labeled Salt Lake City 
“the sewer of the securities industry.” 

The Church finally had to take note of the stink when in the early 
1980s, a member of the Church’s elite found himself embroiled in a 
multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud. Believing that Elder Paul Dunn, a 
member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, had blessed the deal, hun- 
dreds of trusting Mormons had mortgaged their houses and given the 
proceeds to a Mormon entrepreneur named Grant Affleck who promised 
to invest their money, make their mortgage payments, and give them a 
substantial profit to boot. In his sales pitch, Affleck showed pictures of 
himself, Dunn, and some of the Osmonds cutting a ribbon at the opening 
of one of his housing developments. 

Like most Ponzi schemes, Affleck’s scam went smoothly as long as new 
money poured in, but as soon as the flow of gullible investors stopped, the 
whole pyramid collapsed, leaving many without their money and some 
without their homes. 

Fortunately for the Church, Dunn had pulled out of the company 



28 THE MORMON MURDERS 



before the roof caved in, but the "Grant Affleck Affair,” as it became 
known, was enough of an embarrassment that the Church felt compelled 
to make a rare public statement: "Beware of smooth talk,” said the 
editorial in the Church News , a weekly supplement to the Deseret News , 
"claims of endorsements or participation by Church leaders are often 
false. . . . Some Church members think normal business formalities should 
be suspended when they are dealing with 'brothers and sisters/ This can 
lead to fraud.” The author of those cautionary words was Gary Sheets's 
old frat brother, Hugh Pinnock. 



But Cary Sheets was no Grant Affleck. 

Even as the price of oil plummeted, the inflation rate fell, 
and real estate values began to tumble, Gary kept the faith. In a de- 
pressed market, the CFS building, once the company's pride, became a 
costly white elephant. Properties in Houston followed the whole oil- 
based Houston economy down the proverbial tubes. Everybody was 
hurting, but aggressive firms like CFS with high debt-to-equity ratios 
found themselves particularly far out on the limb when they finally 
heard the sawing. The project that Gary had approved over the objec- 
tion of his acquisitions board went bankrupt, as did the resyndication of 
the Garden Park project and many others. The $700,000 worth of solar 
panels sat in the basement of the CFS building gathering dust. Not a 
single one was ever rented. 

At first, everyone tried to blame the catastrophe on the economy, 
OPEC, or poor management. Rich James, the comptroller turned presi- 
dent, had been too mired in detail; he failed to delegate; the various parts 
of the company were too compartmentalized. In December 1984, Sheets 
dumped James (who was smart enough to transfer his assets to other 
members of his family) and handed the reins to his fair-haired boy, Steve 
Christensen. 

But things only got worse. 

Christensen discovered that large sums of money had been "borrowed” 
from solvent partnerships to prop up losing ventures. The officers respon- 
sible argued that these were merely loans — “plugs” was the word they 
used — from one company to another. Arm's length transactions. All very 




BLOOD ATONEMENT 29 



proper and above board. So what if none of them was ever paid back? That 
didn’t make them illegal — just bad business decisions. 

Not everyone took such a benign view. John Conrad was stunned when 
he heard about it. “It was like someone telling me that my mother, a sweet 
old farm lady in West Mountain, Utah, was a prostitute.” Gary, too, was 
shocked by the extent of the “plugging,” although when a $300,000 plug 
turned up and he loudly demanded to know who was responsible for it, 
his name was on the check. “I sign some things I haven’t seen,” he 
explained limply. 

Meanwhile, the ethanol plants, the golden investments over which 
corporate officers had fought, followed the fortunes of the oil market. 
Profit projections that looked great when oil was $40 a barrel looked 
dismal when it fell to $1 5. The company made a recision offer and prayed 
that no one would grab it. Meanwhile, the plants themselves continued 
to consume vast quantities of increasingly hard-to-come-by cash. When 
a team of accountants flew to Portales, New Mexico, to find out what was 
going wrong, Eric Palmer ran them off. 

The airplanes, another glamour investment, turned out to cost far more 
and be worth far less than everyone had expected — everyone, that is, 
except Brent Bateman, the good Mormon pilot who had brought the deal 
to CFS in the first place. What Bateman had failed to reveal was that the 
Learjet they had purchased for $800,000 had sold previously for only 
$650,000. In his enthusiasm for the deal, he had also overlooked the need 
for a maintenance reserve, an oversight that meant the plane began to lose 
money almost from the moment CFS bought it. When Nick Smith, the 
man in charge of the deal for CFS, found out about Bateman’s “mistake,” 
he couldn’t believe it. “Brent was such a good Mormon, a religious person. 
Such a personable, likable fellow. I just didn’t expect bad things to hap- 
pen.” 

In Lexington, Kentucky, John Steiner, the good-looking young Mormon 
horse breeder and son of a bishop, stood up and gave a speech at a banquet 
following the Kentucky Derby. The next morning, he packed all the 
valuables he could into his Cadillac and drove off. More than $1 million in 
investor money disappeared with him, including about $200,000 that 
belonged to the CFS officers he had wined and dined. In his enthusiasm, 
Steiner had sold the same package to several different investors. 

But nothing could shake Gary Sheets’s confidence. 

At every new piece of bad news, he would give another pep talk. “All 
we need to do is sell more product,” he would say. “If the money keeps 



30 THE MORMON MURDERS 



flowing in, then we can solve these problems/' No one could tell him that 
investors weren't about to put more money into a failing company. 

When told about a pathetic $5,000 debt that had to be paid with scarce 
cash to avoid a lawsuit, Gary offered, “Why don't I just show him my 
financial statement? That ought to satisfy him. Because I'll personally 
guarantee it." 

“You can’t personally guarantee anything," his attorney, Paul Toscano, 
told him. “Your financial statement is terrible." 

“But I have assets worth millions of dollars," Gary complained. 

“Sure, but you can’t just show him the asset side. You've got to show 
him the liability side as well." 

Sheets stared at Toscano for a long time. It hadn’t occurred to him, 
the consummate salesman, that you had to show both sides of any state- 
ment. 

At another meeting, Gary suggested that he could personally borrow 
enough money to keep the company afloat. He looked shocked and hurt 
when someone explained that he couldn't borrow any money personally 
with a persona] financial statement in the red. 

“It was like Hitler’s bunker," Toscano recalls. “Here was Gary talking 
about moving the Ninth Panzer Division in — and there was none." 

But Gary dismissed such talk. No matter what happened, no matter 
how bleak things looked, he still had faith that somehow CFS would be 
saved. 

Steve Christensen tried to make him see the light — or the darkness. He 
formed a secret committee to draw up a plan for saving the company, or 
at least its most viable assets, by selling them off to a new independent 
entity — an entity independent of Gary Sheets and his “pathological opti- 
mism." Christensen called it the “White Knight" plan. On August I, 
1985, he presented it to Gary. 

Sheets was shocked at first, then angry. More defeatism, he thought. 

“The only way to make this work is to be more optimistic," he insisted. 
“There's got to be a better alternative. I’m gonna come up with it. I can 
save this. I made this company happen and I'm gonna make it happen 
again." Then he ordered Christensen to: “go back and come up with a 
plan that's based on a more optimistic view of the company." 

Gary just didn’t get it. Optimism was no longer enough. Christensen 
retreated to his computer and gave it one last try, but the numbers were 
inescapable. He went back to Gary and said it again, “It's all over." 

“Steve, can't you tell people we're gonna pull through?" Gary asked. 

“But we can't pull through," said Christensen. 



BLOOD ATONEMENT 31 



“Can’t you just tell them we might have a chance?” 

“But we don’t have a chance.” 

“The only way to solve the problems is to get people to believe we can 
do it, that there’s a fighting chance.” 

“But there isn’t a fighting chance.” 

“If you’re that negative,” said Gary angrily, “if there’s absolutely no 
chance at all, why stay around?” 

“Either you accept what needs to be done, or I’m going out the door,” 
said Christensen. 

“So go out the door.” 

Gary Sheets would do it himself. He would take the reins again and turn 
the company around — a comeback to end all comebacks. He had brought 
CFS this far. Like H. Ross Perot and Lee Iacocca (whose autobiography 
he was reading at the time), he would turn defeat into victory and lead 
his company to even greater triumphs. 

His strategy? Sell! “We’ve got to go out and continue to sell product,” 
he told his salesmen, “and by doing that we’ll be able to make money and 
solve the problems of the past.” 

Gary Sheets couldn’t go under. God wouldn’t let him. “1 don’t know 
how it can't work,” said one of CFS’s attorneys. “We have a stake 
president and a couple of bishops in this thing. I don’t see how the Lord 
would ever let this thing sink.” 

Once in control again, Sheets finally realized just how dire the situation 
was. He tried to implement Christensen’s plan to sell off the viable parts 
of CFS and repay at least some investors but it was too little too late. A 
letter went out to investors advising them of the company’s dire situation. 
Salesmen glumly began giving their clients the devastating news. “There 
have been fabulous losses,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported. “One man 

lost $500,000 in one of the partnerships in one hit There were marked 

mass losses and unhappy people.” 

One of those unhappy people, police suspected, had hired a killer. 

The bombings put an end to any last-ditch efforts to save CFS. Potential 
buyers for the viable pieces disappeared overnight. Bankruptcy became 
inevitable. Not long afterward, Gary Sheets was asked to resign as a bishop 
in the Mormon Church. 



32 



THE MORMON MURDERS 



8 On the day after the bombings, Brad Carter, a twenty-four-year- 
old florist, picked up a shipment of tulips from Holland at the 
Salt Lake airport and then drove downtown. He parked his truck in the 
usual spot, in front of the McCune Mansion on Main Street, just north 
of Temple Square, and walked down the hill to the Crossroads Mall, 
where he had lunch with a friend. A little after two, he left the mall and 
headed back up the hill to his truck, passing on the way newspaper 
machines displaying the latest headline in the story that had all of Salt 
Lake jumpy: 2 killed in s.l.-area bombings: police suspect “hired 
assassin.” It was about 2:45. 

Halfway up the hill, in front of the Deseret Gymnasium, he remem- 
bered what was wrong with this parking spot. It was lovely coming down, 
but murder going up. At the top of the hill, he had to stop to catch his 
breath. He saw a postman, a meter maid, a few others on the street — and, 
in the vicinity of the gymnasium, a white male, average height, a little 
stocky. 

He saw the man go to his car, a sleek blue sports car, open the door 
and lean inside, keeping one foot outside on the pavement. His arms and 
shoulders were moving. It looked as if he was shifting something off the 
drivers seat. At that point, Carter looked away — he had been hit twice 
by cars when he wasn't paying attention, and besides, he had just broken 
up with his girlfriend. He had a lot on his mind. 

He had time to cross the street before he heard the explosion. It 
sounded like a car backfiring and a gunshot combined — double that 
sound. He spun around and saw only smoke and debris where the blue 
car had been, and a man lying in the street. Some pieces were still 
airborne. 

Carter hightailed it down the road to the scene of the wreckage. “It 
looked like somebody was in sad shape,” he later told the police, “and 
that's all I cared about.” The man was lying flat on his back, legs bent 
and spread apart. He had a gaping hole in his knee, one of his fingers had 
been blown off, exposing the bone. There was a gash in his head that bled 
badly, and some kind of wound in his chest. He was covered with powder 
burns. It wasn't clear if he was alive or dead. 



BLOOD ATONEMENT 33 



Carter wanted to leave him where he was until the ambulance came, 
but the flames in the car were spreading, and the heat was already 
overwhelming. With the help of two passersby, he dragged the man 
across the street and onto the grass in front of the gym. He took one 
last look at the car before flames engulfed it. He could see the bottom 
half of a box, a cardboard box, on the floor of the passenger’s side. The 
top had been blown off. There were also some papers crumpled up, 
and a pile of papers in the back behind the seat. Flames quickly con- 
sumed them. 

Carter heard faint sounds of breathing coming from the man. People 
came running out from the Deseret Gym with towels and he applied them 
to the wounds, which had begun to bleed what seemed like gallons. When 
he tore the man’s clothes off to get at them, he saw he was wearing his 
Temple garments, the holy underwear that all good Mormons wear every 
day, everywhere, under their street clothes. So he took out the vial of 
consecrated oil that he always carried with him and anointed the man 
with it, saying, 4 i command you to live until the proper medical help gets 
here.” 



y Ken Farnsworth, who had spent the morning at Kathy Sheets’s 
autopsy, was on his way back to the department when he heard 
the news over the car radio. There had been a third bombing at 200 North 
Main Street. 

Farnsworth recognized the victim’s name: Mark Hofmann. 

The investigation was only a day old, but Hofmann’s name had already 
come up as a business associate of Steve Christensen’s. In his entire life, 
Christensen had only done two things that might make someone want to 
kill him, his friends said. One was taking the helm of Gary Sheets’s sinking 
company. The other was buying the Salamander Letter, a letter written 
by an early Church leader that undermined some of the major tenets of 
the Mormon faith. Although Christensen eventually donated the letter 
to the Church, it received national publicity, embarrassed the Church 
deeply, and upset many faithful Mormons. Upset them enough, perhaps, 
to want revenge. 

And the man who sold Christensen the letter was Mark Hofmann, a 



34 THE MORMON MURDERS 



respected dealer in rare books and documents, especially ones relating to 
Mormon history. 

Police had dismissed the letter as a motive in the Christensen killing 
because it had nothing to do with Gary or Kathy Sheets. But the bombing 
of Hofmann changed everything. Now it looked like they were facing not 
some disgruntled investor, but some disgruntled believer. 

When Jim Bell heard that the victim of the third bombing was alive, 
he jumped in his car and headed straight to Latter-day Saints Hospital. 
Bombings were rare. Survivors of bombings were even rarer. He didn't 
know how badly Hofmann had been hurt but hoped he could hang on 
long enough to answer a few questions. 

He arrived at LDS Hospital about 3:40 and tracked down a friend of 
his wife's who worked in the emergency room. “Where's Hofmann?" he 
demanded, skipping the pleasantries. She led him to a huge room filled 
with doctors and nurses and one uniformed officer, all in masks and gowns. 
On the left wall, a battery of X-ray viewers was covered with films. Bell 
assumed they were Hofmann's. He noticed one in particular: a knee with 
a round piece of metal imbedded in it, probably the end cap from a pipe 
bomb. 

Through a large window on the other side of the room, he could see 
Hofmann (it had to be him) lying on a gurney surrounded by doctors and 
nurses. He asked a nearby nurse, “What kind of condition is he in? Is he 
in a position for me to talk to him?" 

She asked one of the doctors, who said, “It's fine with me." Did he need 
a gown and mask? She said it wasn't necessary. Then she led him into the 
X-ray room, where he spoke to Hofmann directly. 

“I'm a detective with the police department," he began softly. “Do you 
feel like talking to me?" 

“Sure," said Hofmann, surprisingly lucid. Two nurses were dressing a 
head wound and some IV lines ran into his arm. The technicians were 
setting up for the next round of X rays. 

“Do you feel okay?" 

“I guess so.” 

“Can you understand me?" 

“Yes.” 

“Can you hear me?" Hofmann seemed to be having a hard time 
hearing him. 

“I'm having some problem in one ear. You'll have to speak louder." 

“Do you own a — is your car blue in color?" 

“Yes." 



BLOOD ATONEMENT 35 



“Where were you going when your car exploded?” 

“I was going to sell some documents to an attorney here in town. The 
documents 1 intended to sell were in my car when it exploded.” 

“Can you go over your movements from the time you got out of bed 
today?” 

“I got up at 7 a.m., left home, and drove to a Dee's Restaurant at about 
60th South and Highland Drive. I got there about eight. 1 had eggs and 
hash browns and a glass of orange juice for breakfast.” 

Bell was dumbfounded by how clearheaded Hofmann seemed. He had 
had witnesses down at the Hall of Justice who were more befuddled than 
this man lying here badly wounded in the emergency room. “What did 
you do after you left the restaurant?” 

“I just drove around for a while.” 

“Where were you driving around?” 

“Around.” 

Maybe not so clearheaded. “Where's around? You know, east, west side 
of town or what?” 

“1 don't know. Just around.” Bell was a good enough cop to know that 
Hofmann wasn't just befuddled, he was being evasive. He was coherent 
enough to remember what he had for breakfast, but not where he had 
been all morning. 

But why would a victim be evasive? 

“You must remember some of the places you went,” Bell pressed. 
“Well, I was up in Emigration Canyon.” 

“What were you doing up in Emigration Canyon?” 

“Just driving around.” 

“Just driving around?” 

“Thinking.” 

“What were you thinking about?” 

“Just things.” 

At that point, Bell had to leave the room for a few minutes while the 
technicians took another set of X rays. 

When they were through, he came back and started again. “Do you 
feel okay? Do you want to begin again?” 

Hofmann said, “Yes, I'll talk to you.” 

“Okay. Let's talk about what happened when you got to your car?” 
“I went to the car, opened the door, and something fell off the seat 
onto the floorboard. It was a package and I reached for it and it blew 
up.” 

“Give me a description of the package.” 



36 THE MORMON MURDERS 



“Well, it was just a package, I can't remember anything special about 
it.” 

Bell decided to try again with Emigration Canyon. “What were you 
doing up in Emigration Canyon?” 

“Just driving around.” 

“You said you were driving around thinking. What were you thinking 
about?” 

“Things.” 

This was getting nowhere, and Bell couldn't understand why. Of 
course, he'd never dealt with a living bombing victim before. Maybe it 
was the effect of a concussion or some sort of limited amnesia. There had 
to be an explanation. 

When they wheeled Hofmann into another room for a CT scan, Bell 
sat outside thinking about what he had said — or hadn't said. A doctor 
detailed Hofmann's injuries for him. Pointing to the X ray with the end 
cap, he explained that the knee had been severely damaged, that it had 
been pinned back together and large clips attached to the outside to hold 
the leg in place. More surgery would be required, but Hofmann was out 
of danger. 

Jim Bryant, the uniformed officer in the surgical gown, filled Bell in on 
what had happened before he arrived. Bryant had been the first person 
other than medical personnel to join Hofmann in the trauma room. He 
had told the same story about opening the door and a package falling out. 

But there was something else. 

Hofmann had told Bryant about a brown pickup truck that had been 
following him earlier that day. He described it in detail: a full-size, tan 
pickup truck with some damage on the right front bumper. The driver 
was a white man, about thirty-five or forty years old, and he was wearing 
a white shirt. The license plate number was tw something, something, 
with two 3s in it. 

“1 pulled over at about 200 South West Temple,” Hofmann said. “The 
truck stopped in the traffic lane and waited for me to pull away again. I 
didn't think the truck had followed me to the area of the Deseret Gym, 
and I didn't see the truck when 1 left my car there.” 

Finally, he asked Bryant for a favor. He wanted the policeman to relay 
a message to some friends. 

“What's the message?” asked Bryant. 

“Tell them to get out of town.” 



BLOOD ATONEMENT 37 



When television and radio stations began interrupting their 
programming to flash the astounding news that there had 
been a third bombing and Mark Hofmann was the victim. Salt Lake City's 
small community of Mormon dissidents flew into a panic. Like the police, 
they immediately saw the terrifying logic of it: the Salamander Letter had 
touched off a spark in some crazed Mormon fanatic, and he had declared 
open season on the Church's enemies. 

That night, Jerald Tanner, one of the most prominent dissidents, was 
startled from a restless sleep by the faint sound of a car outside his house. 
Wide awake, he looked at the clock. It wasn't even four yet. Beyond the 
windows of his small Victorian house on West Temple Street, Salt Lake 
City was black and quiet — except for the unmistakable sound of footsteps 
approaching his front door. 

He had lived in fear of this moment ever since settling for good in Salt 
Lake City in 1960, ever since he and his wife, Sandra, began their crusade 
of information against the Mormon Church, publishing a newsletter and 
scores of books and pamphlets. They had attacked the Church's policy of 
denying blacks the priesthood. They had brought many of the Church's 
historical skeletons out of the closet, like Joseph Smith's 1831 revelation 
instructing Mormons to marry American Indians (a “dark, and loathsome, 
and filthy people”) because intermarriage would make them “fair and 
delightsome.” They had exposed the Masonic roots of the secret Temple- 
endowment Ceremony. At one point, one of the Twelve Apostles, the 
Church's ruling body, had given them an ominous order: “I'm warning 
you — don't start anything against this Church." 

But nothing happened. And after a few years of sleepless nights, the 
fear went away. 

The bombings had brought it all back. 

Like everybody else, the Tanners had dismissed the first two bombs as 
CFS related — just some irate, unbalanced investor. Then came the third 
bomb, the one in Mark Hofmann's car. It's finally begun, they thought. 
The Day of Retribution. A Mormon crackpot had finally reached the end 
of his fuse. The Lord had sent an avenging angel to smite the critics of 
the Church. 




38 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Others wondered if the Church itself was behind the bombings. It 
was hard, almost impossible, to believe that the Church, given its ob- 
session with public relations, would stoop to murder. But at a time like 
this, no scenario, no matter how outrageous, seemed truly impossible. 
After all, the Church Security force was a notorious hotbed of Mor- 
mon fanaticism, just the kind of crazies to rid the Church of its ene- 
mies — with or without authorization. By now dark rumors were already 
circulating through the underground that a Church Security truck had 
been seen tailing Mark Hofmann the day before his bomb went off. 

The Tanners' phone hadn't stopped ringing since. People from all over 
the country: “Are you all right?" “Have you got police protection?" “Is 
everything okay?" “Do you have a gun?" CBS News wanted to interview 
them. A friend of George Bush's with CIA connections called to offer 
“special security" if police protection proved inadequate. 

Their employees, the ones who ran the presses and collating machines 
in the basement, spent the following days in a state of sheer terror. The 
husband of one wouldn't let her come to work unless he came with her 
and sat beside her all day. Another checked her car from top to bottom 
before starting it — and even then, closed her eyes when she turned the 
key. 

Many of their friends in the small but vocal Mormon dissident commu- 
nity had already left town. All feared for their lives, feared that they would 
be the next to hear footsteps in the night, that theirs would be the next 
name on the avenging angel's list. 

Trembling, Tanner woke his wife. 

Sandra Tanner was a fifth-generation Mormon, a direct descendant of 
Brigham Young, founder of Salt Lake City and builder of the Tabernacle, 
a larger-than-life figure that all Mormon children are taught to revere. As 
a young girl raised in a cloistered Mormon community in Los Angeles, 
she had never doubted her religion. In fact, she grew up thinking that it 
made her superior. “I knew my church history," she recalls. “The other 
kids, the Catholics especially, were dupes who were being spoon-fed 
altered history, but I was in the true Church. / had the inside scoop. Our 
leaders had nothing to hide." 

And so she continued to believe until one day, overcome with curiosity, 
she began to ask questions. That led inevitably to trouble. In class after 
class, teachers scolded her for “confusing" the other students. Finally, 
after much soul searching, she left the Church, married Jerald Tanner, 
and enlisted in his mission to “give people knowledge so they can find the 
way." 



BLOOD ATONEMENT 39 



How odd, she thought as she saw the fear on her husband's face, that 
the great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young should be fearing for her 
life at the hands of his most zealous followers. 

The noise was on the porch now. Someone leaving something at the 
door? Devout Christians, the Tanners thanked God that their children 
were not in the house that night. With his wife trailing him, Jerald 
padded down the stairs, his tall, gangly body stumbling in the darkness — 
without his contacts he could barely see his way to the door. Sandra would 
have to be his eyes. 

In the midst of his terror, he wanted to catch the murderer in the act, 
actually laying the package at his doorstep. 

It was Joseph Smith himself who put the death sentence on the Tanners' 
heads. 

Sometime in 1839, while conversing with Saint Peter — he held fre- 
quent dialogues with biblical figures — Smith happened to mention the 
problems he was having with dissident members of the Church. Accord- 
ing to Smith's own telling, Saint Peter said, in effect, “You should have 
seen the problem we had with Judas Iscariot." When Smith asked Peter 
how he handled his problem, Peter replied that he had personally “hung 
Judas for betraying Christ." That was enough for Joseph Smith. From 
that day forward, the punishment for dissent in his Church would be 
death. 

Smith's successor as Prophet, Brigham Young, a brilliant leader but a 
huge bully of a man, spelled out the new theory in a series of bloodcurdling 
sermons. “There are sins that men commit for which they cannot receive 
forgiveness in this world, or in that which is to come, and if they had their 
eyes open to see their true condition, they would be perfectly willing to 
have their blood spilt upon the ground." 

When a few brave souls suggested that such a doctrine was perhaps too 
harsh, Young replied, “I know, when you hear my brethren telling about 
cutting people off from the earth, that you consider it a strong doctrine, 
but it is to save them, not to destroy them." (Young, of course, had other 
reasons for imposing such a hard rule. He was determined not to lose 
converts at a time when settlers were badly needed to populate Salt Lake 
City.) 

What exactly were the sins that required “cutting off from the 
earth"? In addition to dissent, they were murder, adultery, theft, taking 
the Lord's name in vain, miscegenation, breaking covenants, leaving 
the Church, lying, counterfeiting, and condemning Joseph Smith, his 
Church, or any of its leaders. Any one of these, according to the doc- 



40 THE MORMON MURDERS 



trine of Blood Atonement, required that a man be killed in order to be 
saved. 

And not just killed. His blood had to be spilled: specifically, “his throat 
cut from ear to ear, his tongue torn out by its roots, his breast cut open 
and his heart and vitals torn from his body and given to the birds of the 
air and the beasts of the field and his body cut asunder in the midst and 
all his bowels gush out.” (In practice, slitting a throat usually proved 
sufficient.) 

For those who didn't catch on, Young and his followers provided many 
instructive demonstrations. 

Only days after announcing his intention to leave Springville, Utah, for 
California in 1857, William Parrish was “interviewed” by three Mormon 
officials who found his beliefs “unsatisfactory.” Soon afterward, he and his 
son were shot and their bodies loaded into a wagon. When the corpses 
finally turned up, Mr. Parrish had been stabbed forty-eight times, and his 
throat cut “from ear to ear.” No one missed the point. Mrs. Parrish later 
recounted, “There had been public preaching at Springville, to the effect 
that no apostates would be allowed to leave; if they did, hogholes would 
be stopped up with them. . . . My husband was no believer in the doctrine 
of killing to ‘save,’ as taught by the teachers.” 

Failing to believe in Blood Atonement was one of the sins that de- 
manded Blood Atonement. 

William Parrish wasn't alone. During the early years of Salt Lake City, 
when new construction was everywhere, builders were constantly digging 
up skeletons, not in coffins, not in cemeteries, but just a few feet deep in 
what had been open fields. Local sheriffs looked the other way, but the 
U.S. marshal at the time, Sam Gilson, was convinced that “the leaders 
of the Church were the guilty party.” He decided to prove it by bringing 
one case to trial, the murder of a man named Yates, in 1871. Yates had 
committed the sin of selling ammunition to government soldiers who had 
been sent by President Ulysses S. Grant to enforce the laws against 
polygamy and foil Brigham Young's plans to create a “spiritual and tem- 
poral Kingdom” of his own and secede from the United States. To Young, 
those troops were “the enemy” and so was anyone who supported them. 
Consequently, according to a contemporary account, Yates's “brains were 
knocked out with an ax.” 

A man named William Hickman, who did the actual “saving,” con- 
fessed that he did so on orders from the Mormon leaders, and the U.S. 
district attorney had the temerity to indict not only the mayor of Salt Lake 
and several others, but the Prophet himself, Brigham Young. Before they 



BLOOD ATONEMENT 41 



could arrest him, however, Young, who had already been arrested and 
released on charges of “lewd and lascivious cohabitation” with sixteen of 
his wives, fled to the Mormon stronghold of St. George, Utah. 

Meanwhile, in Salt Lake City, his followers did their best to persuade 
the authorities to drop the charges. The appeal was simple and direct. 
Heavily armed men visited all the local Gentiles (non-Mormons) who had 
supported the federal authorities “in opposing the Mormon system” and 
told them that if Young was arrested, they would all be killed. 

Persuaded, the Gentiles ran to the U.S. attorney, R. N. Baskin, and 
implored him to drop the charges against Young. Baskin, a man not 
without a sense of humor, told their spokesman, “You would make a 
splendid angel, and as I do not intend to grant the request, you had better 
prepare to go to Abraham's bosom.” (Young, the so-called Lion of the 
Lord, was eventually arrested for murder. But before his case was brought 
to trial — Baskin was certain the government would have won in court — he 
was released on a technicality.) 

As the Tanners knew all too well, the bloodthirsty, vengeful spirit of 
Brigham Young was still alive in the vast outback of rural Utah. There 
were still polygamists out there, thirty thousand of them by some esti- 
mates. Although most were peaceful, decent people, a small core of 
fanatics believed that the current Prophet of the Church, Spencer W. 
Kimball, was an agent of the Devil because he had succumbed to the 
federal government on the issue of polygamy. On more than one occasion, 
they had threatened to blow him up. 

By comparison, Blood Atonement was downright mainstream. In fact, 
it was still a part of the Temple Ceremony, the secret religious service 
established by Joseph Smith. Just as in Smith's day, modern worshipers 
ritually agreed during the ceremony to kill anyone — themselves or oth- 
ers — who revealed its secrets. The P.R.-minded men on Temple Square 
didn't like to talk about it, and many of the insurance salesmen and 
housewives who went through the motions didn't know what they meant. 
But a few did. And in a state filled with guns and religious fanatics, it only 
took one. 



42 THE MORMON MURDERS 



One like Ervil LeBaron. 

At age twenty-eight, LeBaron, a Mormon polygamist, 
the Church of the First Born of the Fullness of Times. 
Claiming divine inspiration, he waged a campaign of death, terror, and 
Blood Atonement unmatched since the days of Brigham Young. It 
began with the murder of his brother, Joel, in 1972. Six years later, 
God ordered LeBaron to have one of his wives, Vonda White, "Blood 
Atone” an apostate named Dean Grover Vest. God spoke to LeBaron, 
as he did to Joseph Smith, very specifically. Tell White to "fix Vest a 
hot meal,” God said, and then, "while he is at the table enjoying the 
dinner,” get behind him and "shoot him in the back of the head until 
he is dead.” 

When another of LeBaron's followers, Lloyd Sullivan, began having 
problems with his wife Bonnie, God interceded again. He told LeBaron 
to tell Sullivan: take Bonnie to the "Deep South and deep-six her there.” 
In another revelation, God ordered the death of LeBaron's own daughter, 
Rebecca. The Lord's exact words: Send her a “one-way ticket.” 

As many as twenty-nine people may have been "Blood Atoned” under 
LeBaron's ministry of terror. 

More recently, in 1984, two polygamous brothers, Ron and Dan Laff- 
erty, had become infuriated at their sister-in-law, Brenda, for refusing to 
encourage their brother, Allen, to take on additional wives. To remove the 
obstruction and advance the cause of polygamy, they broke into Allen's 
home and killed both Brenda and her fifteen-month-old daughter, slash- 
ing their throats from ear to ear. 

When Ron Lafferty was arrested, the police found a written revelation 
in the pocket of his shirt: 



ii 

founded 



Thus sayeth the Lord unto my servants the prophets. It is my will and 
commandment that ye remove the following individuals in order that my 
work might go forward, for they have truly become obstacles in my path 
and I will not allow my work to be stopped. First thy brother’s wife Brenda 
and her baby, then Chloe Low and then Richard Stowe. And it is my will 
that they be removed in rapid succession that an example be made of them 



BLOOD ATONEMENT 43 



in order that others might see the fate of those who fight against the true 
saints of God 

Not all the fanatics were as crazy as the LeBarons and Laffertys, but, 
unfortunately, not all the fanatics were safely out in the countryside. Some 
were right downtown, working in the Church Office Building. 

They may have looked like drab office workers, in their white shirts, 
old suits, too-wide ties, and too-tight belts, but underneath they were 
the Lord’s foot soldiers — some would have said God's gumshoes. Some 
were, in fact, former FBI agents and proud of it. They were led by 
L. Martell Bird, a former Fed who, upon retiring from the bureau in 
1981, offered to run the Church's security operation gratis. Bird had 
been one of ). Edgar Hoover's right-hand men back in the good old 
days, before the bureau was high-teched and yuppified. It was said, with 
some awe (and often by Bird himself), that he was one of only seven 
men in the FBI that Hoover actually trusted — if he trusted anyone. He 
had been on the surveillance team that bugged Martin Luther King's 
hotel room and listened in on the moans of white call girls. He had also 
bugged communist college kids, those peaceniks and fairies who op- 
posed the war in Vietnam. “Bad people have to be watched," Bird was 
fond of saying. 

Bird had been appointed to his position as head of Church Security by 
Ezra Taft Benson, a man who made even J. Edgar look conciliatory, a man 
who considered Eisenhower “a socialist," the civil rights movement “a 
communist conspiracy," and the John Birch Society just a bunch of 
patriots. With Benson’s backing, Bird had helped turn a tiny security 
operation that used to spend most of its time tracking down kids who stole 
from the candy machines into a mini-FBI, and the Church offices, espe- 
cially the offices of the First Presidency, into a veritable fortress. When 
the Prophet was being moved from his official residence in the Hotel Utah 
to a new apartment, windows were replaced with bulletproof glass and 
walls fitted with sheets of steel — enough to stop a bomb. 

“When you are at war,” Apostle Boyd K. Packer said publicly, “and we 
are, security is crucial." 

When a fire alarm went off on the fifth floor of the Administration 
Building, one man from Church Security came running out of his office 
yelling, “We're under attack! We're under attack!" In public, the Prophet 
was surrounded by more security men than the President of the United 
States. Offices were constantly being swept for electronic bugs. There 
were always rumors of phones being tapped and even of listening devices 



44 THE MORMON MURDERS 



being placed in rooms of the Temple to overhear the plotting of radical 
fundamentalists. 

More ominous were the Church's increasing efforts — like those of the 
Nixon White House — to “keep track of" its critics. A secret “Intelligence 
Division" was created within the security office for just that purpose and 
staffed with the purest of the pure, the same kind of nonsmoking, non- 
drinking, hypercommitted Mormon shock troops that Howard Hughes 
had surrounded himself with in his last paroxysms of paranoia. 

Only this time, they were working for God. 

On November 6, 1975, afraid that his phone was being bugged, Jerald 
Tanner had picked up the receiver to call an ex-Mormon who knew 
something about bugging. Between the second and third rings, he heard 
a woman's voice saying softly, “They're trying to call out." 

A few months later, the Tanners received a letter from a young man 
in California named Stan Fields, inquiring about their activities. For the 
next four years, Fields corresponded and visited often. He was a bright, 
scrubbed young man, a former missionary who claimed to be a refugee 
fleeing from the Church. 

He was, it turned out, a mole spying for the Church. His name was 
Steve Mayfield, not Stan Fields, and he had worked for both the Church 
and the FBI. On July 16, 1980, Tanner confronted him in the Church 
Office Building. He denied spying for the Church but confessed that some 
of the material he had gotten from the Tanners might have “floated 
upstairs." 

Some time later, the Tanners also discovered that the FBI had opened 
a file on them as potential “threats to the national security." All it would 
have taken was a phone call from Martell Bird to one of his buddies still 
at the bureau, or, better yet, from a Church leader to a powerful Mormon 
politico in Washington — “God has asked me to ask you. . . ." 

To sic the FBI on the Tanners was one thing; to blow them up was 
something else. But there were so many unanswered questions. Why did 
Church Security men materialize at the scene of the Hofmann bombing 
almost instantly? What about the report by the state legislator that 
Church Security had kept Hofmann under surveillance? That didn't make 
them bombers, but it didn't make them look good either. Did they see 
it happening and not try to stop it? At least one federal investigator from 
the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms thought it looked more 
than just suspicious. He almost ignited a fistfight in the police department 
when he declared the murders were the work of the “Mormon Mafia" — a 
group of “hit men" from Church Security sent by their leaders to “off the 



BLOOD ATONEMENT 45 



enemy.” Shades of Brigham Young. More level heads saw the possibility 
of a rogue operation: something unauthorized, something to protect the 
“plausible deniability” of higher-ups. 

The night of October 16, the night of the third bombing, Jerald Tanner 
laid his trembling hand on the doorknob while Sandra peered out the 
window. 

It was a man in a black uniform — a limousine driver. He was there to 
pick them up for their appearance on CBS’s “The Morning Show.” 
Apparently, someone had forgotten to tell the limousine company that 
the appearance was canceled. 

Which again raised the question of why the appearance — to be taped 
at the Church-owned CBS affiliate, KSL-TV — had been canceled in the 
first place. 



When Jim Bell heard that Hofmann’s scans would take at 
least another hour or two, he stationed a uniform at the door 
and drove down to the bomb site on North Main to join his partner. The 
whole way, he kept replaying the bizarre conversation with Hofmann. 
Despite being surrounded by nurses and doctors and IVs and X rays, he 
just didn’t look or sound like a victim. 

In fact, although Jim Bell didn’t know it yet, Mark Hofmann was 
already the number-one suspect. 

Two witnesses at the Judge Building the previous day, Bruce Passey and 
his father, Hal, had ridden up in the elevator that morning with a man 
carrying a package addressed to Steve Christensen. They told the police, 
and the press, that the man was wearing “a Kelly green, letter-type jacket 
with brown leather sleeves, blue jeans, and tennis shoes.” 

Early the next morning, Ed Ashment, a Mormon historian, called 
Dawn Tracy of the Salt Lake Tribune. “Dawn, it says on the news 
accounts that a man was seen carrying a package in the Judge Building 
with a green letter jacket on. Mark Hofmann has a green letter jacket. 
Mark Hofmann would fit that description.” 

The suggestion seemed “totally off the wall” to Tracy. Not Hofmann. 
But she told her fellow reporter at the Tribune , Mike Carter, about it 
anyway. “That’s Mark’s trademark. The green letter jacket.” 




46 THE MORMON MURDERS 

Carter, a thirty-year-old blond, Brooks Brothers preppie in wire-rim 
glasses who covered the courthouse beat for the Tribune , relayed the news 
to Detective Don Bell — no relation to Jim Bell — later that morning. Bell 
took it nonchalantly. Like the rest of the Salt Lake City police, he was 
still working on the assumption that the bombings were CFS-related, not 
documents-related. But four hours later, when the third bomb went off, 
Bell collared Carter. "It's Mark Hofmann. We may need you to swear as 
a witness on a search warrant/' 

Carter said he couldn't do that, ethically. “I can't burn my sources." 

Not long afterward, Carter appeared at the bombing scene and told 
Ken Farnsworth, “I hear Hofmann wears a green letter jacket just like the 
one in the description." 

And he matched the composite. 

The same two witnesses, Passey Senior and Junior, had taken their turns 
with Detective John Johnson, who doubled as the department's sketch 
artist. Johnson wasn't a likely man for the job, with his massive barrel 
chest, overbuilt arms, drill-sergeant posture, and steel-blue eyes. But with 
practice, he had grown extremely adept with the little kit of plastic 
overlays of mouth, eyes, hair, nose, chin that allowed even deep-chested 
military types to play artist. 

Bruce Passey gave a general description first. “The man was about 
thirty to thirty-five, white, with a medium build, about 175 pounds, brown 
hair cut pretty short, and I think he had a thin mustache." Using the 
overlays, Johnson constructed the face feature by feature, then showed it 
to Passey's father, Hal. “It's a real good likeness," he said, “except he 
didn't have the mustache." So the mustache remained a question mark. 

And except for the mustache, the police thought, the composite 
matched Hofmann to a tee. 

Back at the bombing scene, all activity came to a temporary standstill. 

Jerry Taylor had arrived from San Francisco. 

What Joe Namath was to football, what Bobby Orr was to hockey, 
what Joe DiMaggio was to baseball, what Stallone was to Rocky , Jerry 
Taylor was all these and more to the Salt Lake City cops. Even a young 
bull like Ken Farnsworth had to pay his respect. This was a cop's cop. 
He didn't look like much — early forties, dark curly hair with a few 
touches of gray, thin, a bit of a paunch, glasses — not the kind of guy to 
stop traffic or bring a bar to its feet when he walked in. But appearances 
could be deceiving. 

Jerry Taylor was the two things every cop wants to be: professional — 



BLOOD ATONEMENT 47 



totally, uncompromisingly, shit-kicking professional; and tough — really 
tough, not TV tough, a hard-drinking, tough-talking, fast-moving, no- 
bullshit kind of a guy with a chain tattooed on his wrist. He was also the 
best at what he did, the very best, and he wasn’t shy about telling you 
so. No false modesty about Jerry Taylor. Expertise was expertise and he 
wasn’t the top ATF man in the Western United States for no reason. 
No one knew bombs like Jerry Taylor knew bombs. Cops in fifty states 
knew that, and they respected it. 

They especially respected the way he spoke his mind, never pulled 
punches, never minced words, never hedged. That was the luxury of 
working with bombs. Bombs weren’t subtle, they weren’t gray, they 
weren’t ambiguous, and neither was Jerry Taylor. He would look you 
straight in the eye and give you a straight answer, no matter who you were, 
no matter what your rank. If you tried to argue, he would shoot back, 
“What are you, some kind of shithead? Don’t you understand what I’m 
telling you?” 

When he fingered a criminal, he stayed fingered. When he said a guy 
was guilty, he stayed guilty. And when he came around to the courtroom 
to back it up, looked the jury in the eye, and said, “That man did it,” they 
always believed him because he was Jerry Taylor and he goddam knew 
his business. 

Without wasting any time, he and Bob Swehla, the local ATF man, 
examined the bomb site and checked the car, which was still smoldering. 
The braking mechanism had been damaged in the fire, and the car had 
rolled down the hill a few feet since the explosion. Taylor knew precisely 
where it had been at the time of the explosion from a small impact rut 
in the asphalt. From the lines of the pellet shots and fragmentation of the 
bomb, he pinpointed the direction of the explosion. All that in the first 
minute. 

Then he divided the scene into sections with chalk marks on the 
pavement. They would map the scene and tag the evidence just as Jim 
Bell had done in the hallway of the Judge Building. ATF men fanned out 
over the scene tagging and packing items for the lab. Taylor, and Taylor 
alone, decided which pieces were of potential evidentiary importance. 
When the immediate vicinity was scoured clean, he sent men throughout 
the surrounding area, as far as the rooftops of nearby buildings, looking 
for more. Later, he had the storm drains checked in case the water that 
had been used to put out the fire had carried any important evidence into 
the gutter. 

It was a joy to watch. 



48 THE MORMON MURDERS 



* # $ 

Taylor was still there when Jim Bell arrived from the hospital. 

“Look,” said Bell, grabbing Taylor away from the others. “1 talked to 
Hofmann,” he began. “He said he came back to his car and found a 
package on the driver's seat. When he opened the door, the package fell 
on the floor and he reached to catch it. That's when it blew up.” 

Taylor rubbed his chin and looked long and hard at the burned-out car. 
Then he turned to Bell. “The designer of these three bombs is different 
from any other in the United States,” he said, seeming to ignore what Bell 
had told him. “This last bomb wasn't exactly the same size. And the 
Christensen bomb was the only one with nails. But other than that, all 
three bombs were the same. All three bombs had the same kinds of pipes, 
the same kinds of powder, the same kinds of mercury switches, the same 
kinds of battery packs, the same kinds of igniters, the same kinds of wiring 
systems, the same kinds of packages. Put all that together, and you have 
a unique bomb design, even though the elements aren't that unique. It 
would be an exercise in futility for a defense attorney to try to distinguish 
them. 

“Now tell me again where Hofmann said the bomb was when he got 
in the car?” Taylor had that hard-eyed look. 

“He said it dropped on the floor and went off when he got in the 
car.” 

Taylor drew in his breath and smiled. “Then you've got your bomber.” 

Bell was dumbstruck. “What do you mean?” 

Taylor took him to the car and explained. It was clear, he said, that at 
the time of the explosion the bomb had been at the right edge of the seat, 
tilted against the console that separated the left seat from the right. 
“Hofmann is lying when he says it fell on the floor when he got in the 
car. He was kneeling on the seat fiddling around with the bomb when it 
went off. The guy just made a mistake. He dropped the bomb, and he 
knew it. He had a few milliseconds, but just long enough for his brain to 
say, ‘Here it goes.' ” 

“You mean it was the biggest Oops! ever heard,” said Bell. “The 
biggest Oh, shit! ever recorded?” 

“That's about it.” 

Taylor showed him the indentation near the right side of the seat, 
which showed where the bomb was at the time of the explosion. It was 
a tight, cramped little car, with a console between the two seats and a tiny 
ledge behind them. “The bomb went off there,” he said. “Do you see this 



BLOOD ATONEMENT 49 



depression, going this way here and down? That means the bomb was 
right up on the seat — not on the seat exactly, but right at the edge of the 
seat, resting against the console. If the bomb was really on the floor when 
it went off, it would have blown straight down, and there wouldn’t be any 
impression here.” 

The door had to be ajar, Taylor added, otherwise Hofmann would have 
been hoisted straight through the roof by the force of the blast. He had 
looked at countless homicide victims who had been in car explosions with 
the doors closed. They had shot through the roof but were usually caught 
halfway, at the waist. 

In a flight of virtuosity, Taylor reconstructed for Bell the last few 
minutes before the explosion. “Hofmann comes back to the car. The 
bomb is probably in the back. He kneels down on the seat, twists to the 
back to get the bomb. It’s moving forward, then he bobbles it, drops it 
by mistake, and . . . boom.” 

Taylor went on to play with a variety of scenarios, from the crazy — that 
Hofmann brought the bomb fully armed, propped between his leg and 
the console — to the more likely, that he armed it on the spot. “He rests 
it on the ledge behind the seat. Then he goes away and comes back, and 
needs to arm the device. So he has a simple protective mechanism — a 
couple of wires sticking out of the box, and all he has to do is twist them 
together. So he arms the device while it’s resting on the ledge, then he 
brings it forward and drops it.” 

There it was, the Taylor conclusion: absolute, no hedging, no ifs, no 
maybes. Hofmann did it. 



After that, everything the police turned up only confirmed 
what Jerry Taylor already knew. 

Christine Hayes, an attractive woman in her twenties, was on meter- 
maid duty in the area at the time of the explosion. She saw a man near 
the McCune Mansion carrying a briefcase. In her rear-view mirror, she 
watched him head west down the street and walk around behind the blue 
sports car (which she had noticed because it was such “a cool car”). He 
bent over the car as if unlocking the door. A moment later she heard the 
explosion, so close she could feel the heat. When she looked back, the man 




50 THE MORMON MURDERS 



was lying beside the car. So she turned around, drove back to the scene, 
and called for help on her radio. 

Hayes was absolutely certain no one was standing outside the car at the 
time of the explosion. So Hofmann was lying when he said the bomb went 
off just after he opened the door. He had to have been sitting inside the 
car. 

There was one problem: Hayes remembered the man as being blond 
and six feet tall. Hofmann was short and brunette. 

Richard Evans had been staring at the little blue sports car from his 
apartment window just before the explosion. He confirmed it: there was 
no one standing outside the car in the moments before the explosion. No 
more than two seconds elapsed between the time he turned away from 
the window and the explosion. He turned back and there was a man lying 
in the street. 

A postman and a friend had been walking along the sidewalk no more 
than twenty feet from the car when it blew. They agreed: no one was 
standing outside the car at the time. Ditto Maureen Clark, who was 
standing across the street. Ditto two women in a car on Main Street. Ditto 
Keith Sorensen, a truck driver who was turning onto West Temple, half a 
block away, when he heard and felt the explosion: no one outside the car. 

Lori Loftin had been looking directly at the car and saw Hofmann 
inside at the time of the explosion. He was kneeling down on the driver's 
seat reaching for something, Loftin remembered. He had taken some- 
thing from behind the front seat, turned slightly, and then boom, he was 
thrown from the car. 

That was exactly the way Jerry Taylor had said it happened. 

Later, when the warrant to search the trunk of the car arrived, they found 
an elbow of pipe, like the pipe used to make the Sheets and Christensen 
bombs; a black Magic Marker, like the one used to address the bomb 
packages; and two rubber surgical gloves, like anyone would use to avoid 
leaving fingerprints. They also found an old, dark, crinkled piece of paper 
(no one recognized it as papyrus) along with armfuls of other papers, all 
of them soaking wet from the drenching of the fire hoses. Hofmann 
clearly dealt in paper of some kind. 

By seven that night, they had a warrant to search Hofmann's house, 
and Bell and Farnsworth joined the huge team that headed out to Holla- 
day. With the warrant in hand, they were inside the house five minutes 
after arriving. Lucille Hofmann, Mark's mother, had already given them 
the key. 



BLOOD ATONEMENT 5 1 



With men from the police department, sheriff's office, and county 
attorney's office, it looked like a marauding horde going through the little 
three-bedroom bungalow on Marie Avenue, but Bell had planned the 
operation with his usual care. Each officer was assigned a separate room 
and, when he was done, reported to one of the search officers. Bell 
assigned one officer to act as evidence custodian and collect the evidence, 
another to take photographs. Bell made it clear he did not want any 
foul-ups that would give some cowboy defense attorney a chance to 
exclude the evidence they found. 

He knew it was a no-win situation. If they closed down the house and 
went through it piece by piece, it would take a week and the family would 
howl to the press, “The cops have taken over our house." If they took 
everything back to the police department and went through it there, a 
clever defense attorney could say the search was too broad, they took too 
much, so all the evidence was seized unlawfully. 

The only thing to do was stick to the warrant, which listed bombs or 
materials that could be used in making bombs and the letter jacket. 
Nothing else. That meant no fishing. No papers, no records, no letters. 
They searched Hofmann's office in the basement and found hundreds of 
strange documents, but left them where they lay. 

What they seized was an empty tape recorder (the parts could have 
been used to construct a bomb), some gun parts, and, most bizarre, an 
Uzi machine-gun manual. (What was a documents dealer doing with a 
machine-gun manual?) They also dismantled the security system. (Some 
of the parts could have been used to make a bomb.) 

About fifteen minutes into the search, they opened the closet near the 
stairs. Sergeant Glen Bayless called out to the other officers, most of whom 
were in the basement, “You should come upstairs. We just opened a closet 
and there might be some items of interest to you in here." There, in the 
very back comer of the closet, on the floor, turned inside out, was a green 
letter jacket. 

That afternoon, Chief Willoughby had held another press conference, to 
reassure the public again that no mad bomber was loose in Zion. “I think 
it’s important that we not unnecessarily alarm our citizens. I think we 
have things well in hand." The chief said that the main focus of the 
investigation had indeed shifted away from CFS and toward the Salaman- 
der Letter, adding that the case was becoming so complex, it was “like 
something out of 'Miami Vice.' " He added, evasively, that it would be 
“99 percent accurate” to say that “the person making the bombs" was 



52 THE MORMON MURDERS 



“under surveillance.” When a reporter asked, “Isn't it Mark Hofmann?” 
he coyly refused to answer. 

Late that evening, Willoughby and ATF Agent Jerry Miller were 
speaking to the press again. And this time they were willing to name 
names. “We've found enough evidence that Jerry Miller is going to the 
U.S. Attorney's Office to file charges,” Willoughby announced. “J erry 
feels in his gut that we have more than enough to charge Mr. Hofmann. 
We're not saying the investigation is concluded.” But, he added, with at 
least as much confidence as the night before, “We know who the players 
are and other charges will be filed — other than Mr. Hofmann.” 

But weren't the first two bombs supposed to be the work of a profes- 
sional hit man? Weren’t those bombs, like today's bomb, too sophis- 
ticated for a presumed amateur like Mark Hofmann? 

“It's a proven fact that it was sophisticated,” Willoughby quipped. “So 
much so that he blew himself up.” 

Ken Farnsworth left Hofmann's house about three that morning, when 
the search was finally called off. On his way home, he phoned the LDS 
Hospital and found out that Hofmann had just come out of surgery. He 
and Joe Everett, another cop, decided to swing by and get a fuller reading 
on his condition. Jerry Taylor had said he wanted a detailed description 
of Hofmann's injuries so he could plot precisely the position of his body 
at the time of the blast. The longer they waited to get it, Taylor said, the 
more time the evidence would have to heal. 

If Jerry Taylor wanted it, Ken Farnsworth wanted to get it for him, even 
at three in the morning. 

They arrived at a good time. The attending nurse, Deborah Bowdoin, 
had held off redressing Hofmann's wounds following surgery in order to 
let him sleep. He was lying in the brand-new special procedures room — a 
large space with two surgical lights above and outlets for oxygen, nitrous 
oxide, and air in case the room had to be used for surgery. It was big 
enough to hold three or four beds but right now held only one. Hofmann 
had a “C” collar around his neck and a fixator device on his knee, which 
was propped on pillows and still bleeding. There was a light dressing on 
his right upper arm with blood seeping through, and the fingers of his 
right hand, visible despite the splint, were bright red at the tips. He was 
attached to a blood pressure/heart rate monitor, a respiration monitor, 
and an intravenous-pump monitor. 

Farnsworth took shorthand mental notes: “Right leg blown to shit, 
right hand blown to shit.” He had a laceration across his forehead, which 



BLOOD ATONEMENT 53 



he must have banged on something very hard. He had a piece of shrapnel 
still stuck behind his shoulder blade, according to Bowdoin, and couldn't 
rotate his arm. 

“He could have died," said Bowdoin, sympathetically. “But at this 
point, it’s clear he won't." 

In the last two days, Farnsworth had sat through both the Christensen 
and Sheets autopsies, separated by only an hour and half of sleep. He 
wasn’t feeling sympathetic. As far as he was concerned, this man had just 
killed two people and obviously intended to kill a third when he blew 
himself to hell instead. 

“He got what he deserved," muttered Joe Everett with a black laugh. 

Farnsworth remembered Gary Gilmore, another Utah killer, who tried 
to commit suicide just before he was supposed to face the firing squad. 
Doctors had worked frantically to bring him back just so the authorities 
could get on with the execution. Farnsworth knew this was another capital 
case, probably another death penalty case, and here they were working a 
miracle of modern medicine for a guy they would end up executing. It 
was just weird. 

He looked at Bowdoin, an emergency-room nurse as hard as any cop. 
“You patch him up," he said in a voice laced with sarcasm, “and we'll 
stand him up and execute him." 



PART TWO 



Too Good to 
Be True 



M Eighteen-year-old Mark Hofmann sat in the planetarium- 
like “Creation Room” of the Mormon Temple in Salt 
Lake City, surrounded by murals of swirling clouds in pinks and grays, 
dressed in the full splendor of his Temple clothing: white shirt, white 
pants, white belt, white tie, white moccasins. He had already been 
washed and anointed and was now ready for the Temple-endowment 
Ceremony, the supersecret ritual that faithful Mormons perform at 
least twice a year beneath the Buck Rogers spires of their Temples, 
beyond the prying eyes of a skeptical world. 

If any of the worshipers objected to the aesthetics or to the sexism (men 
were anointed “to become hereafter kings and priests unto the Most High 
God/' women “to become queens and priestesses to your husbands"), 
none dared speak out. This wasn't just ceremony, it was rehearsal. Re- 
hearsal for entrance into the Celestial Kingdom. And when that day came, 
nobody wanted to fluff his lines. 

It began with prologue, a retelling of Creation — although not a ver- 
sion most Christians would recognize. Joseph Smith believed there 
were many gods, generations of gods; that the God of this world 
was once a man, just as all good Mormons will one day be gods in 
their own worlds. Smith also believed that the God of this world, the 
Bible's God, was really three gods: Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael. 
This was partly the result of Smith's idiosyncratic reading of the 
Hebrew phrase Elohim Jehovah — “Lord God" — to mean two Gods, 
Elohim and Jehovah, Lord and God. Michael's origins were less 
clear. 

All of these gods were, of course, married, many times over, although 
there was a principal God/wife, or “Eternal Mother." She wasn't men- 
tioned in the Bible because God was afraid humans would take Her name 
in vain. 

So, in the version of Genesis that Mark Hofmann saw, as acted out in 
the Temple Ceremony, God, or Elohim, didn't actually do the creating, 
he ordered it done. 



57 



58 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Jehovah , Michael See yonder is matter unorganized . Go ye down and 
organize it into a world like unto the other worlds that we have heretofore 
organized. (If there were other gods, there had to be other worlds.) 

When the drama was over, Mark and the other worshipers gave the 
secret salute — right arm “to the square' 7 (forearm at shoulder level, paral- 
lel to the ground) — and Elohim reminded them of their mission: “You 
do sacrifice all that you have, including your own lives, if necessary, for 
the building up of the Kingdom of God on the earth." 

Now it was time for the real ceremony to begin: the first of the secret 
tokens and signs. 

They are most sacred and are guarded by solemn covenants and obliga- 
tions of secrecy to the effect that under no condition , even at the peril of 
your life , will you ever divulge them . . . . 

A Temple worker demonstrated the First Token of the Aaronic Priest- 
hood by clasping the hand of another worker, placing the joint of his 
thumb over the first knuckle of the hand. By any other name, it was a 
secret handshake. 

Then came the sign of the First Token. The worker demonstrated by 
bringing his right arm to the square, palm to the front, fingers closed, and 
thumb extended. 

Finally came the “execution of the penalty" for revealing the First 
Token or the Sign of the First Token. The worker placed his thumb under 
his left ear, palm down, and drew his thumb quickly across his throat, from 
ear to ear. 

There was no mistaking that gesture. 

/, Mark, do covenant and promise that I will never reveal the First Token 
of the Aaronic Priesthood , together with its accompanying name , sign and 
penalty, rather than do so 1 would suffer my life to be taken. 

Then came another morality play, acted out by Temple workers, this 
one a curious parable in which Lucifer tries to bribe a preacher to sway 
Adam to his cause. Lest the audience titter, the worker playing Peter 
instructed them to “avoid all lightmindedness, loud laughter, evil speaking 
of the Lord’s anointed, the taking of the name of God in vain and every 
other unholy and impure practice." 

Once again, Mark and the others gave the secret salute — right arm to 
the square. 

Then there was a Second Token of the Aaronic Priesthood, another 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 59 

secret handshake, another sign of the token, another penalty sign, and 
another oath. 

Next came the part of the ceremony devoted to the higher Melchiz- 
edek Priesthood with its special garments (white robe; white, turban-like 
cap with a bow over the right ear; apron; and white moccasins) and 
more complicated signs and tokens like the Sign of the Nail (cupping 
the left hand and bringing it forward to form a square while placing the 
right thumb over the left hip); the Patriarchal Grip, or the Sure Sign of 
the Nail (interlocking little fingers); and the sign of the Second Token 
(raising both hands and then lowering them while repeating the incan- 
tation “Pay lay ale” three times). 

Eventually, Mark was brought before the Veil of the Temple, a gauzy 
curtain embroidered with symbols and pierced by three holes. The sym- 
bols corresponded to the symbols on the Temple garments: the square, 
symbolic of the covenants he entered into in the Temple; the compass, 
a reminder that “all truth is circumscribed into one great whole and that 
desires, appetites, and passions are to be kept within the bounds the Lord 
has established; the navel mark, placed on the right side of the garment, 
over the navel, symbolic of the “constant need for nourishment to body 
and spirit”; and the knee mark, placed over the kneecap and indicating 
that “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the 
Christ.” 

The holes in the veil were for the final test. Through one, a wor- 
shiper gave the secret tokens to Temple workers on the other side. 
Through another, the workers asked questions, and through the third, 
the worshiper gave the secret passwords. If all the responses were cor- 
rect, there would be three taps on the magic mallet, like knocks on a 
door, and the person would be led around the veil — into the Celestial 
Kingdom. 

When it was Mark's turn, he gave the five points of fellowship: inside 
of right foot by the side of right foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, hand 
to back, and mouth to ear. 

He said the magic incantation: “Health in the navel, marrow in the 
bones, strength in the loins and in the sinews, power in the priesthood 
be upon me and upon my posterity through all generations of time and 
throughout all eternity.” 

He gave the secret password: “The Son.” 

And the Lord said, “That is correct.” 

Three taps with the mallet. 

“What is wanted?” asked the Lord. 



60 THE MORMON MURDERS 



“Adam, having conversed with the Lord through the veil, desires now 
to enter His presence/' intoned a Temple worker. 

“Let him enter/' said the Lord. 

And Mark was brought into the Celestial Room, a Victorian hotel lobby 
filled with heavily padded chairs, for a few moments of introspection. 



By all accounts, Mark William Hofmann was the ideal Mor- 
mon child. A little reticent socially, perhaps, and a little 
awkward physically, but studious, hardworking, and, above all, exceedingly 
deferential to his elders. 

His was certainly the ideal Mormon family. His devout Mormon father, 
Bill, a salesman for Pitney-Bowes, had married his equally devout Mor- 
mon mother, Lucille, a seventh-generation Mormon housewife, and raised 
an obedient — if small — Mormon family of two girls and one boy in the 
ideal Mormon community of Millcreek, a prosperous suburb of Salt Lake 
City. 

Like many Mormon men, William Hofmann ran his life with a combi- 
nation of naivete and rigidity — the former at work, the latter at home. 
Whether cheerleading in high school or peddling the latest get-rich 
scheme, salesmanship was in his blood. No promise was too extravagant, 
no sell too hard, no shot too long for Bill Hofmann. 

At home, however, there were no deals. Most Mormons believe that 
they will be rewarded in the next life with worlds of their own, but in the 
little house on Marie Avenue, Bill Hofmann had decided to get a head 
start on the afterlife. Within its walls, he was already God. “Everything 
was black and white with Bill," according to a friend. “He couldn't deal 
with gray." Especially where religion was involved. When Mark, at thir- 
teen, came home with questions about Darwin's theory of evolution and 
how it didn't square with Mormon doctrine, Bill Hofmann refused to hear 
about it. 

“Your faith's not strong enough," he insisted. “If you have a testimony, 
your religion doesn't need proof." When Mark pressed, his father flew 
into a rage. No one remembers seeing him hit his children exactly, but 
he had a reputation for a low flashpoint, a tendency to become “a little 




TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 61 



unhinged” in arguments, especially over religion. “If it wasn't what he 
wanted to hear, then it just wasn't true,” recalls one family friend. “And 
everybody else around him had to feel that way too or else they were 
bad — not just wrong, but evil.” 

Lake many Mormon women, Lucille Hofmann obeyed her husband, 
loved her children, and clung to her religion, rising every morning at 
five to read the Bible and pray. A slight, red-haired woman with big, 
intelligent eyes, she accepted the wifely role prescribed by Mormon 
doctrine, leading tours in Temple Square and serving as Relief Society 
president for her stake, the Mormon equivalent of a diocese. Everyone 
knew that Lu was smarter, better read, and more thoughtful than her 
husband, but that, unfortunately, didn’t count. In a Mormon house- 
hold, it was the husband who held the priesthood. Other wives finessed 
the doctrine by playing Donna Reed, all wifely deference on the out- 
side, while ruling with a mailed fist on the inside. But Lu Hofmann 
was too pious for pretenses. 

Their second child, Mark, was bom on Pearl Harbor Day, December 
7, 1954, and grew up, like most Mormon children, in a house filled with 
dutiful family outings, frequent prayer sessions — led by Bill Hofmann — 
and endless Church activities. At Sunday school, he sang the usual 
songs — “I hope they call me on a mission” — with the other children at 
the ward house (the local church) and joined the usual Explorer Boy Scout 
troop. Although an avid reader, he languished safely in the middle of the 
class, or a little below the middle. His weak chin, mincing walk, high- 
pitched voice, and glasses would have marked him as a nerd if his grades 
hadn’t been so low — Cs and even Ds. Except that somehow everyone, 
from his friends at school to his family at home, believed his grades were 
very good. 

He wasn’t a bad athlete: “untalented but determined,” according to 
one of his few friends. In the end, though, he didn’t have much choice 
but to be a loner. Even his own cousin shunned him in the halls. In high 
school, he chose a loner’s sport, track, and lifted weights. 

To others, it looked like a bland but happy and typical Mormon adoles- 
cence — typical hobbies for a boy growing up in Utah: hunting (rabbits), 
camping, waterskiing, coin collecting. Typical summer jobs: roofing 
houses, bagging groceries (he was promoted to head of the vegetable 
department). Even his troublemaking was typical: a run-in with a teacher 
who caught him with his head down during class, a speeding ticket, 
flashing fake SOS signals to a park ranger on a camping trip to East 



62 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Canyon Reservoir, harassing cats and dogs with buckshot, shooting off 
illegal firecrackers. 

And some overeager experimenting with his chemistry set. Once, when 
he was fourteen, he poured some wood alcohol into a heated beaker, 
covered it, and waited too long. The explosion sounded like a hard-hit 
baseball shattering a plate-glass window, somewhere between a pop and 
a ping and the end of the world. Mark tried to take cover but a jagged 
hunk of glass caught him under the chin, simultaneously tearing a gash 
in the skin and filling it with scalding wood alcohol. The miscalculation 
had left a thick, ugly yellow scar on his neck. 

But even by Bill Hofmann's standards, a young boy was allowed to be 
rambunctious every once in a while. Nothing strange in that. At the 
appropriate time, he would settle down and act responsibly. 

When he graduated from high school in 1973, Mark planned to go to 
college and study to be a doctor. “I want to save lives," he told a friend. 



Mark Hofmann did have one secret. A secret so deep and 
filled with shame that he never told a soul about it. 

The trouble began in 1836 when an attractive servant girl named Fannie 
Alger walked into Joseph Smith's life. Smith, who had moved his new 
religion from Palmyra, New York, to Kirtland, Ohio, instantly took a shine 
to the attractive young Fannie, as he had previously to a number of the 
female members of his flock. There was just one problem: Smith's wife 
Emma. Not long afterward, Joseph had a revelation from God: 

Verily, thus saith the Lord ... if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to 
espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, 
and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; 
he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him. . . . 

In other words, Joseph Smith could marry Fannie Alger in addition to 
Emma. For good measure, the Lord added a postscript addressed to 
Emma. “And let my handmaid, Emma Smith," He said, “receive all those 
that have been given unto my servant Joseph." Fearing the worst, Joseph 




TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 63 



sent his brother, Hyrum, to deliver the revelation to the hot-tempered 
Emma. “I believe I can convince her of its truth,” Hyrum said to Joseph 
before setting out, “and you will hereafter have peace.” 

Joseph knew better. “You do not know Emma as well as 1 do,” he said 
to Hyrum. 

Joseph was right. When Hyrum read the revelation, the only “piece” 
Emma Smith wanted was out of Joseph's hide. She gave Hyrum a tongue 
lashing and when Joseph later handed her the written revelation, 
promptly threw it in the fireplace. When asked why he would let Emma 
destroy a revelation from God, Smith replied he “could rewrite it at any 
time if necessary.” Eventually Emma capitulated, and Joseph went on to 
marry not only Fannie Alger but at least forty-seven other women (hun- 
dreds more were “sealed” to him in eternity). 

By 1844, the year Joseph Smith was martyred by an angry mob in 
Carthage, Illinois, polygamy, or “plural marriage” as the Mormons pre- 
ferred to call it, had become the best-known and certainly most titillating 
feature of Mormonism. Salt Lake City, where the faithful settled in 1847 
under the leadership of Smith's successor, Brigham Young, became the 
Plato's Retreat of the Wild West. Farmers threw lavish parties at which 
their wives could inspect the newest nubile prospects and help choose, in 
a kind of sorority rush, their husband's next bride. 

Not surprisingly, the demand for brides soon outstripped the supply of 
new converts from Europe and the East. The problem was compounded, 
apparently, by libidinous missionaries who were “skimming off” the in- 
ventory. “The brother missionaries have been in the habit of picking out 
the prettiest women for themselves before they get here, and bringing 
only the ugly ones for us,” complained Heber C. Kimball, an early Church 
official. Speaking for all the men of Salt Lake City, Kimball ordered the 
missionaries: “Hereafter you have to bring them all here before taking any 
of them, and let us all have a fair shake.” 

Mormon male leaders proved endlessly inventive in justifying their 
“peculiar institution.” They argued that Jesus himself was a polygamist 
(they could name only Elizabeth, Mary Magdalene, and Martha as 
wives, but insisted there was “a host of others”). Even God was polyg- 
amous. “We have now clearly shown,” declared Orson Pratt, an early 
Church leader, “that God the Father had a plurality of wives ... by 
whom He begat our spirits as well as the spirit of Jesus His first 
born. . . .” In support of his claim, Pratt offered a simple mathematical 
calculation: “[I]t would have required over one hundred thousand million 
of years for the same mother to have given birth to this vast family.” 



64 THE MORMON MURDERS 



So, of course, God simply had to have not one wife, but hundreds. 

Some even tried to portray polygamy as a moral boon, attacking the 
one-wife system as a “source of prostitution and whoredom/' Polygamy, 
they argued, was a bulwark against promiscuity. Polygamy reduced the 
temptations that beset married men, eliminated the need for mistresses 
and adultery, and — and this was the best part — it kept men strong and 
virile. “I have noticed that a man who has but one wife, and is inclined 
to that doctrine, soon begins to wither and dry up," Kimball told the 
Deseret News , “while a man who goes into plurality looks fresh, young, 
and sprightly." 

The sprightly men of Salt Lake City bought every word, but to Victo- 
rian America it all added up to one thing, legalized prostitution. 

For a while, Mormon leaders thumbed their noses at the Gentiles in 
Washington and their laws against polygamy. “I live above the law," 
declared Brigham Young, who had accumulated twenty-seven wives, 
“and so do this people." Polygamy was divinely ordained, he insisted, 
and “no power on earth can suppress it, unless you crush and destroy 
the entire people. ... A man that enters this Church ought to be able 
to die for its principles if necessary." “Polygamy was revealed by God," 
the Church announced in the Deseret News in 1865. “To ask them to 
give up such an item of Belief, is to ask them to relinquish the whole, 
to acknowledge their priesthood a lie, their ordinances a deception, and 
all that they have toiled for, lived for, bled for, or hoped for, a misera- 
ble failure and a waste of life." Just to make sure there was no doubt 
about where He stood, the Lord spoke to Wilford Woodruff, fourth 
president of the Church, at least twice to reiterate that plural marriage 
was nonnegotiable. 

But all that changed in 1887, when the federal government seized all 
Mormon property, including Temple Square. To the hardworking, 
materialistic Mormons, dying for principles was one thing, but surrender- 
ing their property was something else. Eventually, the Lord came around 
to the government's view. He appeared to Woodruff and “showed me by 
vision and revelation exactly what would happen if we did not stop this 
practice," said Woodruff. In 1890 the Church issued a manifesto banning 
plural marriages. 

But nothing really changed. The manifesto was just a ruse for Washing- 
ton's sake, a public relations ploy, a sop to Congress on the eve of Utah's 
application for statehood. In fact, the Mormons had no intention of 
giving up their wives. Church leaders continued to perform polygamous 
marriages even as they condemned the practice in public. Joseph F. 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 65 



Smith, the sixth president of the Church, had eleven children by five 
wives and performed plural marriages on ships in international waters long 
after the practice was supposedly banned by God. 

To ensure that witnesses could not inform on those who performed 
these illegal marriages, the vows were often read from behind a curtain. 
Polygamy became the Church's little secret, something to be hidden from 
the outside world, from the federal marshals who came snooping around, 
and from the congressional committees investigating Utah's statehood. 

In defense of the deception, Church leaders claimed they were “lying 
for the Lord." 

In the end, however, not even Congress was fooled. Its report con- 
cluded: “The leaders of this church, the first presidency and the twelve 
apostles, connive at the practice of taking plural wives, and have done so 
ever since the manifesto was issued which purported to put an end to the 
practice.” 

Gradually, as the Church was transformed from a radical sect into an 
ultraconservative social institution, the crackdown on polygamy grew 
teeth. By 1904, a man could be excommunicated for taking a second wife. 
References to polygamy were expunged from official Church histories, 
students at Church-sponsored schools like Brigham Young University who 
had the effrontery to mention it in their papers had the references crossed 
out with the remark, “Too controversial.” Professors were forbidden to 
write or speak of it. 

Meanwhile, the human cost was devastating. Years of hypocrisy and 
deception threw generations of Mormon husbands and wives into legal 
limbo. Children suddenly found themselves illegitimate. To avoid federal 
agents, they took on false names, wore disguises, and developed an elabo- 
rate early-warning system. Children had to be brought into the conspiracy 
at an early age. According to one account, “Not talking to strangers, being 
part of a warning system, and being taught outright falsification were all 
elements in their training during those years.” Like their leaders, they 
learned to lie for the Lord. 

Far worse than the hiding, however, was the sense of spiritual abandon- 
ment as the Church reversed its position. Now their souls were in jeop- 
ardy. They felt betrayed by their leaders. For many families, polygamy 
became a secret shame. 

One of those families was Lucille Hofmann's. 

Her parents had been married from behind a curtain. From the time 
she was old enough to talk, they had told her repeatedly, Don't talk to 
strangers, don't say anything, and if anyone asks you if your father has two 



66 THE MORMON MURDERS 



wives, deny it. At all costs, she was to guard the family's dark secret. 

Mark Hofmann may have respected his father, according to family 
friends, but he adored his mother. Her shame was his shame. Anything 
that hurt her, hurt him. That's why, when she finally confessed the 
family secret that had tormented her for so long, he was furious at the 
Church. “Institutionalized deceit," he called it. He ran to the Church 
genealogical libraries, determined to find out who, in fact, had married 
his mother's parents. He made a list of all the Church officials who had 
the authority to perform marriages at the time. Then he began elimi- 
nating names: one was on a mission, one was at a conference, another 
was on a trip. Finally he eliminated every name but one: Joseph W. 
Summerhays, a prominent businessman and Church leader. The hypoc- 
risy of it all outraged him. 

He confronted his father. 

“You just need more faith," Bill Hofmann told him. It takes faith to 
follow the Church's teachings. 

Which teachings, Mark demanded, the old ones or the new ones? 

“Whatever the current Church believes." 

Subject closed. 

But like many Mormon boys with doubts, Mark was already caught up 
in the intriguing, Masonic-like initiation rites of the Mormon priesthood, 
the secret passwords, the secret handshakes, the special garments. On 
December 2, 1973, in a Temple Ceremony, he was received into the 
Melchizedek Priesthood. In his blessing, Patriarch Frank Carl Berg (a 
building contractor who worked out of his home on Preston Street), 
informed Mark that he was “descended from worthy ancient patriarchs 
that lived upon the earth anciently, even from Abraham, Isaac, and 
Jacob." Specifically, Mark's ancestor was Ephraim, “a worthy son of 
Joseph." “Ephraim was given an important blessing," intoned Elder Berg, 
“in which he was told that through him and his posterity the righteous 
would receive their knowledge of truth. 

“You will rejoice in the special work you will be called to do. A burning 
will come into your soul and you will know that you are about your 
Heavenly Father's business. . . . Yes, you are truly a worthy son that has 
been given a special assignment to fill in this mortal world. . . 

The next step was a “mission." 

Almost every good Mormon male is “called" by God to perform mis- 
sionary duty in another state or another country. (God rarely calls young 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 67 

Mormon women.) God’s summons is very specific. He not only tells you 
to go, He tells you where to go. 

In 1974, God told Mark Hofmann to go to southwest England. 

He made a good missionary, though not a great one. In a report listing 
the number of hours each missionary spent on the road proselytizing, he 
ranked forty-ninth out of 208. It wasn't easy work, especially for a diffident 
loner. Like a pack of young lions tracking a herd, the young missionaries 
preyed on the old, the sick, and the lame. The Church's research had 
shown that the most likely converts were blue-collar, lower-class workers 
unhappy with their low station in life, and those whose “ramparts were 
broken." “Your rampart is your circle of friends and your sense of a 
coherent life," explains a former missionary. “When people move, change 
jobs, get divorced — their ramparts are broken, and that's when they're 
most susceptible to conversion. Those were the people they told us to go 
after." 

Hofmann spent the next two years making banal entries in his journal, 
engaging in occasional “Bible bashes" — heated debates with missionaries 
from other sects, especially the Jehovah's Witnesses — and studying Mor- 
mon doctrine. His fellow missionaries considered him quiet, intelligent, 
and bland — typically Mormon. 

And he returned from his mission in 1976 with typical doubts. “I guess 
the Mormon Church only wins by default," he told a fellow missionary. 
“I just can't find any other Church that is true, that I can feel is true. 
At least the Mormon Church is better than any other." 

For many young Mormons, the mission is an eye opener. After eighteen 
years in the Mormon stronghold of Utah, they discover that not only is 
there a world outside of Mormonism — a world that drinks and smokes and 
swears and fornicates and stays up late — but that that world is, at best, 
skeptical of, at worst, hostile toward Mormonism. Many never recover 
from the shock. A high school friend of Hofmann's, Jeff Salt (who had 
gone no farther than Florida), was one of many missionaries who in the 
process of trying to convert the benighted, almost joined their ranks. 

When Hofmann entered Utah State in 1976, he chose to room with 
Jeff Salt. There were endless late-night, soul-searching discussions of reli- 
gion that first semester. Hofmann admitted that he had first doubted 
when he picked up a book on Darwin at age thirteen and realized that 
Darwin's survival-of-the-fittest theory directly contradicted Joseph 
Smith's eternal progression from the Pre-Existence to the Celestial King- 
dom. 



68 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Once again, Mark tried to bring his doubts home, to family dinners, 
to Bill Hofmann. 

What about these discrepancies? Mark would demand. 

“Nit-picking/' Bill Hofmann would say. 

Mark would run to his room to get a book or an article to bolster his 
point. 

But Bill Hofmann never looked at them. “He was intimidated by 
ideas/' according to a family friend, “by thoughts, intellectualism. Every- 
thing was from the heart, not the head." 

“Concentrate on the value of the Church as a whole," he would tell 
his son, according to the same family friend. 

But the books. . . . 

“Put your faith in the living Church " 

But the history. . . . 

“Don't get hung up on history. Look at it as it is now, and as it affects 
your life now." 

But the Prophet said. . . . 

“Don't be so concerned about what some Prophet said or didn't say." 

But it keeps changing. . . . 

“What you need is more faith." 

Subject closed. 

Infuriated, Mark went back to school and wrote out his beliefs in a 
page-long letter. He was an atheist. He didn't trust the Church or its 
leaders. Why did they hide things from its members? Like the truth about 
polygamy. It was dishonest. He planned to send the statement to his 
mother. She was a victim herself. Surely she would understand. 

Bill Hofmann must have tried to tell himself that this was all normal; 
that Mark was just finding himself. It was typical for missionaries to return 
with doubts. Mark was just going through a trial. His faith was strong, and 
it would triumph in the end. 

When Lu Hofmann read the letter, if she read it, she put it away and 
never said a word to her husband. As for any doubts about the Church 
she may have shared with her son, they would undoubtedly be resolved 
in time. 

Right now, what Mark needed, they agreed, was a good wife. 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 69 



One Sunday that first year at Utah State, Bill and Lu Hof- 
mann drove up from Salt Lake City to Logan, about 
eighty miles, to visit their son. Like most of their visits, it was unan- 
nounced. If Mark knew in advance they were coming, he might make 
some special arrangements, so it was better if they just surprised him. 
Mark understood the real purpose of the no-warning policy. On their 
last visit, he hadn't had time to take down his Farrah Fawcett-Majors 
poster. Lucille Hofmann took one look and it was down. She didn’t 
have to say a word. It was replaced by a poster she gave him with a 
Mormon devotional message. 

This Sunday, the Hofmanns made another, similar discovery. 

“Mark’s not here,” Jeff Salt told them. 

“Where is he?” In church perhaps? 

“Sunday afternoons, he’s at Jill's,” said Salt. 

For a twenty-one-year-old boy who had never dated, never even kissed a 
girl before, Jill Stone was quite a catch. Friends called it “beginner’s luck.” 
How could Mark Hofmann, a detached, often arrogant, somewhat wimpy 
science major, attract this tall, tanned, dark-haired girl with a shapely body 
and pretty face? He was usually quiet, she was extremely verbal; he was 
sarcastic (if seldom funny), she was always serious; he wore T-shirts and 
jeans, she wore anything tight and black; he was aloof toward girls, she 
was flirtatious toward boys; he was a cultural cipher, she played the piano, 
and well. On the surface, about the only things they seemed to have in 
common were blue eyes and a taste for off-beat people. 

Mark didn’t just woo her, he laid siege to her. For whatever reason, he 
wanted to have a wife — and Mark Hofmann had a way of getting what 
he wanted. He wrote her cute little notes telling her how much he loved 
her, bought her flowers — “Not just the red-roses-once-a-year routine,” she 
says — and thoughtful presents like a copy of the Book of Mormon bound 
in white leather and a gold teddy bear on a chain. He told her how much 
he liked her long dark hair, the way she did her makeup, the way she 
dressed. She was such a lady. At that, Jill surrendered without a fight. 

She was the oldest of three daughters raised by an Idaho rancher. 




70 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Inevitably, that meant being raised like an eldest son, so Jill found being 
treated like a lady a new and exhilarating experience. "Oh, Markie," she 
gushed. She told him how selfless and noble he was for giving up a 
lucrative future in medicine in favor of a life of helping people through 
medical research. To friends she bragged about her gallant young beau 
from an excellent Mormon family. 

Maybe they didn't share the same intellectual interests, but at least he 
could talk — so many boys couldn't — and talk very intelligently, at that. 
Maybe he was a little on the nerdy side, but then, with her interest in 
classical music and her serious outlook on life, she was hardly the frivolous, 
fun-loving, sorority type herself. 

When Jill threw out his dirty jeans and unkempt T-shirts and bought 
him the kind of preppy clothes that befitted a boyfriend of hers, Mark 
didn't complain. His mother had always bought his clothes anyway. 

In April, only four months after they started dating, Mark popped the 
question, and Jill said yes. Yes, but : she wanted a long engagement "so 
we can get to know each other better." Mark reluctantly agreed to wait 
one year. To mark his claim, however, he bought her a huge one-carat 
diamond ring. Jill was touched by the gift but troubled by the message 
that accompanied it. "You're too flirtatious," he told her. "This ring will 
let everybody know you're already taken." 

That was Jill's first hint that Mark was "dealing from two decks." 

What, for example, did he think about the Church? 

On the one hand, he railed against it. "It's all a joke," he would say. 
"The Book of Mormon is a fairy tale." And then — as if it came to him 
as an afterthought — "God is dead." He always wanted to argue with her 
about it. He showed her books and articles and research papers. He took 
her to visit well-known anti-Mormon activists. "Don't you see how 
strongly I feel?" he protested. "It's important to me to find things out 
about the history of the Church so I can prove it's not true." He seemed 
to think these were explosive ideas and waited for Jill to counterattack. 

Jill wondered what all the fuss was about. Although she considered 
herself a good Mormon, she didn't really believe that Joseph Smith had 
found gold plates on a hillside in New York State. She wondered if 
anybody did, except maybe a few old relics at Church headquarters. The 
real strength of the Mormon Church wasn't the doctrine, anyway; it was 
the people, the family and community values. "I am a Christian first; 
that's my real priority," she told him. "All I really care about is living a 
good life, having a nice family, and being, you know, a useful member of 
society." 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 71 



Why did Mark take every little thing so personally? “Why are you 
getting so fanatical?” she would ask. “It’s just history.” 

What she truly didn’t understand was why he still considered himself 
a Mormon. Why did he still go with her to church every Sunday? Why 
did he still pay his tithe? Why did he still present himself to the outside 
world as a good and faithful Mormon if he had such strong antagonisms? 
Why was he so obsessed with appearances? Surely it wasn’t for her sake. 
She had been raised in a split family: Protestant father, Mormon mother, 
and they had gotten along just fine. As long as he let her raise their 
children as Christians, they could live together happily, Mormon or not. 

“If you’re really not into the Mormon faith,” she told him impatiently, 
“don’t devote your life to tearing it down. Walk away from it.” 

But for some reason Mark couldn’t do that. He couldn’t let go. 

Once they were engaged, she couldn’t do anything right. “Tone down the 
way you dress,” he commanded. “Don’t be so visible.” One day she came 
home and found him in her apartment uninvited. When she went to her 
closet, she noticed some things were missing: a halter top, a sheer blouse — 
just the kind of flashy clothes Mark always complained about. When she 
accused him of taking them, he didn’t even bother to deny it. 

She was too independent. “Let’s go get our blood tests,” she suggested 
one day. 

“We can put it off,” he said. 

Procrastinating as usual, she thought. “Let’s just go do it and get it over 
with,” she insisted. 

She just plain thought too much. When he mentioned that he was 
considering dropping out of school, she had the gall to have her own 
opinion on the subject. “I think it’s a lousy idea,” she said. 

She was bossy and overbearing. “Grate the cheese,” she told him one 
night when they were fixing pizza at his apartment. 

“Why are you always telling me what to do?” he exploded, his face 
turning bright red. Suddenly Mark was frothing at the mouth, gesticulat- 
ing wildly. “I’m sick of you trying to control my life,” he screamed. “Sick, 
sick, sick, SICK!” While Jeff Salt stood and watched, his jaw dangling in 
disbelief, Mark grabbed Jill’s arms and threw her against the wall. 

Not about to be manhandled by this crazed choirboy, she grabbed the 
nearest thing in reach, a dishwasher-safe plate, and batted him over the 
head, hoping maybe a good lump would bring him to his senses. 

But two weeks later he did it again. 

She was “too social.” She had too many friends. When an old boyfriend 



72 THE MORMON MURDERS 



came to visit her, Mark and Jeff Salt hid in the bushes and kept an 
all-night vigil with a pair of binoculars. Mark took down the boyfriend's 
license plate number and somehow traced it through the Department of 
Motor Vehicles. The next day, with the boyfriend’s name in hand, he 
accused Jill of sleeping with him. She tried to slough it off — “You’re 
ridiculous,” she told him — but Mark was sure he was right. Not long 
afterward, he walked into the room when she was on the telephone with 
the same old boyfriend. 

“Who was that?” he demanded. 

“I don’t have to tell you,” she said and hung up. 

“Then I’ll find out for myself.” He grabbed the phone and dialed the 
operator. “My twelve-year-old daughter just made a call that I shouldn’t 
be paying for. If you could give me the number, I can charge her for it. 
She needs to learn to be responsible for her own expenses.” The operator 
gave him the number. 

Jill was furious. Mark was even more furious. 

But he never stopped planning the wedding. 

He chose the place — the Temple in Salt Lake, where his parents had 
been married (even though Jill’s parents would have to wait outside during 
the ceremony, since her father wasn’t a member of the Church). He chose 
the time — September 1977, instead of the original date the following 
June. He even chose the wedding dress — a Victorian extravaganza with 
a high neck, ruffles at the top and bottom, long lace sleeves, faux pearls, 
a huge train, and a profusion of slips forming a glorious full poof. It was 
a sixteen-year-old girl’s fantasy — and just like the dress his mother had 
worn. There would be two wedding receptions, one in Idaho, the other 
in Salt Lake. More than five hundred people were invited. 

But Lucille Hofmann was having second thoughts. Finding a wife for 
Mark was one of her highest priorities, but it had to be the right wife. 

All along, Lu Hofmann had been concerned that Mark’s relationship 
with Jill was too “liberated,” that Jill was too “negative,” too “willful,” 
not Mormon enough. Once she even took matters into her own hands, 
telling Jill, “You’ll have to be more respectful if you want to make a 
marriage work.” But that wasn’t enough. As the wedding date ap- 
proached, Mark pointedly reported to Jill the negative feedback he was 
getting from home: “They think you aren’t religious enough, or tradi- 
tional enough, or subservient enough to make a good wife for me.” 

Or socially prominent enough. Bill and Lu Hofmann thought their 
brilliant, young pre-med son deserved nothing less than the daughter of 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 73 

a leader of the community — preferably the daughter of a General Author- 
ity. 

Eight days before the big day, Mark called Jill and canceled the wed- 
ding. No explanations, no apologies, no wedding. 

Three days later, he called back. “Jill you question me too much. You 
question what I do. You disagree with what I feel religiously. And you're 
way too visible. You have a huge circle of friends. You're way too extro- 
verted. You could never be what 1 have to have in a wife. You could never 
be more compliant, more . . . more. . . 

“More like Lucille Hofmann," she completed the sentence under her 
breath. It was almost as if he had some plans for the future, she thought, 
plans that required a wife who wouldn't ask questions, who wouldn't have 
friends traipsing through the house, who would rely on him utterly, who 
could be trusted to keep some secret. And he was right: that wasn't her. 

Two years later, Mark married Doralee Olds, a freshman at Utah State 
whom he had met the previous fall in the laundry room of his apartment 
complex. She couldn't have been more different from Jill: small and 
skinny with mouse-brown hair and a wardrobe filled with worn jeans and 
old T-shirts. When asked about her good points, friends would say, “She's 
a very simple girl" or “She's good at planning things." “Dorie's not an 
aggressive sort of person," says one friend. “She just wanted to get married 
and stay home and have kids and make cookies and not have to worry 
about taking care of herself in the big, bad world." 

In July 1980, Mark and Dorie moved to Sandy, a suburb south of Salt 
Lake City. 

Like the typical young Mormon wife, Dorie bore three babies in quick 
succession: Michael, Karen, Lisa. Like the typical young Mormon hus- 
band, Mark ignored her, put on weight, and played with the babies. 
(Feeding, diapering, and bathing them he left entirely to her.) Like the 
typical young Mormon couple, they went to church and to Sunday school 
every Sunday and were reasonably active in the ward. Dorie became a 
counselor in the Relief Society Presidency, teaching homemaking skills — 
cooking, quilting and sewing, home decorating, budgeting, and health. 
Mark served in the Elders Quorum Presidency. 

Neighbors didn't see much of them, but what they saw they liked. 
Dorie was “sweet and wholesome" they thought, “a typical girl next 
door." Mark “kept to himself” but “loved his kids." They remembered 
the time, in 1981 , when he came to the aid of a lady down the street whose 
house needed new shingles but who couldn't afford a roofer. Mark orga- 



74 THE MORMON MURDERS 



nized a work crew at the ward house. “Don't you worry about a thing/' 
he told her. “You just let me take care of it." The day they planned to 
do the work, a storm blew up and it poured rain, but Mark just kept 
working through the lightning and thunder. He was afraid if they didn't 
finish, the roof would leak. 

“Mark, get down from there and go home!" the woman called to him 
as he worked in the rain, soaking wet. 

“No, no. There’s only a little bit more to do." 

“Let me pay you,” she insisted when he was finished. 

“Oh, no," Mark said pleasantly. “Helping your neighbor is what Mor- 
monism is all about." 



Mark Hofmann’s obsession with the past began simply 
enough, with coin collecting — the perfect activity for a non- 
athletic, socially inept, and overly controlled twelve-year-old boy. Except 
Mark didn't do it for the same reason other boys played football or dated 
girls. He didn’t even do it for the same reason other boys collected stamps 
or baseball cards. Mark did it for one reason and one reason only: money. 
He would buy rolls of pennies and sit quietly for hours, days, in his room, 
going through tens of thousands of pennies looking for the defect, the 
mint mark, or the date that might make a penny worth a nickel or a dollar, 
or maybe even a hundred dollars. 

One day, Mark took a friend, Ralph Feurer, down to his basement 
workshop. 

“This is my electroplate set,” he said proudly, pointing to a stainless- 
steel tank, a rectifier, some wires, and several bottles of solutions. 

“What's it do?" asked Feurer, an affable, athletic boy who was always 
bemused by Mark's mysterious projects. 

“You put these clips on and you can build up metal." 

“That's great, but what do you use it for?" 

Mark, who had been waiting for that question, held up a dime. “You 
see this mint mark," he explained, pointing at the tiny letter on the head 
side of the coin. “If that says one thing, this dime's worth about two 
dollars. But if it has a different mint mark, it would be a much, much rarer 
coin and would be worth hundreds and hundreds of dollars. With this 




TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 75 

electroplate set 1 can change the mint mark. I can take an old one off and 
build a new one up.” 

Not long afterward, Mark sent a rare dime to the American Numis- 
matic Association in Colorado Springs for authentication. They sent back 
a letter stating the coin's value and instructing him, “Please send us 3 
percent of the value of the coin.” Mark sent them the money, and they 
returned the coin, along with a certificate verifying its authenticity. 

When Feurer heard the story, he asked Mark if the coin was genuine. 
“Of course it's genuine,” Mark said with a smile. He had an unpleasant 
way of smiling without showing his teeth. The corners of his mouth would 
tighten, as if on a drawstring, and his lips would thin to a line that looked 
more like an incision than a smile. “If the American Numismatic Associa- 
tion says it’s genuine, why then it’s genuine.” 

It wasn’t long before Mark’s remarkable success in coin collecting merged 
with the other great preoccupation of his life. In 1967, at the age of 
thirteen, he began collecting Mormon memorabilia. His very first pur- 
chase was a $5 note from Joseph Smith’s short-lived bank, the Kirtland 
Safety Society. It was signed by Smith himself. Mark paid what was, for 
a thirteen-year-old, the huge sum of $250. 

And that was just the beginning. Before long, he was selling and trading 
little “odds and ends” of Mormonabilia and studying the collection of 
early Church materials at the Wilford C. Wood Museum in Bountiful. 
By the time he graduated from high school, Mormon history was no 
longer just a hobby, it was an obsession. 



And what a history it was. 

Beginning with the story of Israelites sailing to America 
in 600 b.c. on a boat designed by God, as related in the Book of Mormon, 
it was a curious history indeed. 

There were those hundreds of revelations from God to Joseph Smith, 
many of them amounting to little more than “Stop bothering Joseph 
Smith” or “Give Joseph Smith your money” or “Let Joseph Smith marry 
your daughter.” Never in the history of religion had a supreme being 




76 THE MORMON MURDERS 



found it necessary to talk at such length and with such specificity to one 
of his servants. 

There was that awkward passage in the Book of Abraham, "translated 7 ' 
by Joseph Smith, that cast blacks into eternal disfavor for sinning in the 
Pre-Existence. The Church's policy of excluding blacks from the priest- 
hood had stood against all attempts at reform during the civil rights 
movement. But then, in the 1970s, a Stanford University official declared 
that if the B.Y.U. basketball team ever wanted to play Stanford again, the 
Mormon Church would have to "reinterpret God's word and establish 
doctrines compatible with Stanford's policies.” After a decent interval, 
the Prophet did have a new revelation reversing the Church's position on 
blacks. 

It was only the most recent embarrassment in a history already marred 
by murder, forgery, fraud, boundless lust, betrayal, and power politics — to 
say nothing of polygamy. With a history like that, it wasn't surprising that 
the Church in which Mark Hofmann grew up, was, to put it mildly, 
ambivalent about its past. Rather than study history, early Mormon his- 
torians preferred to rewrite it — or just forget it. 

The process of revision began soon after the Church began. Joseph Smith 
himself recounted at least three different versions of the all-important 
First Vision, his initial encounter with God at age fourteen. In one 
version, for example, God appeared to him with Jesus and some angels, 
in another version the angels stayed home. 

When Smith died, the Church immediately set to work revising his 
story — more than doubling the length of his History 7 of the Church , for 
example, putting the additions into the first person and claiming that 
they were Smith's own. The Church also deleted some material. In his 
version, Smith had written that he drank a "glass of beer at 
Moesser’s.” The line was dropped in later editions. When a memoir by 
Lucy Mack Smith, the Prophet's mother, was published in 1853, word 
went out from the First Presidency that all copies of the book should 
be "gathered up and destroyed, so that no copies should be left.” 
Brigham Young later appointed a "committee of revision” to "correct” 
the book. The commission added 436 words, changed 220, and deleted 
altogether another 1,379. 

Over the years, other revisions were made in Smith’s biography: the fact 
that he declared Missouri, not Utah, to be Zion, the land promised by 
God to His people; the fact that he urged moderation, not abstinence, in 
drinking; and especially the fact that he broke his own rules to confer 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 77 

priesthoods on Elijah Abel, a black man, and, according to some accounts, 
Emma, his wife. 

Brigham Young, too, left a trail of embarrassing historical facts that had 
to be excised from the record, among them the cover-up of the Mountain 
Meadows massacre, an Indian raid planned and supervised by Young's 
men in which 150 men, women, and children were killed; various mur- 
ders; counterfeiting charges; bizarre plans to create a wilderness kingdom 
and crown himself king; and dipping his rather large hand into the 
Church’s tithing till. (While sponsoring communitarian values for the 
faithful, Young himself amassed a vast personal fortune.) 

Around the turn of the century, even the revisions had to be revised. 
In the drive for statehood, Church leaders had decided that the time 
had come to enter the mainstream, to become respectable, and thus 
began a period known as the Great Accommodation. That meant no 
discussion of polygamy or Blood Atonement or communitarianism or 
anything else that sounded even vaguely cultish. Great chunks of Mor- 
monism’s lusty and colorful but decidedly fringe history disappeared 
overnight. 

The Church was forced to deny its common roots with the secret 
society of Masons, a fraternal organization with elaborate ceremonies and 
arcane symbology. Smith had “restored” an ancient Christian ceremony 
that the Masons had bungled. When it was pointed out that Joseph Smith 
had joined the Masons just two months before devising the Temple 
Ceremony, the Church claimed it was just coincidence. And the dozens 
of exact parallels in the two ceremonies (including many word-for-word 
borrowings)? Just coincidence. 

Why did the Mormons flee from Missouri in 1839? The official Church 
response was that persecution by local non-Mormons forced them out. 
Which was the truth, but not the whole truth: the fact that Joseph Smith 
formed a small band of storm troopers called the Danites, who robbed and 
burned the property of local non-Mormons, was simply dropped from the 
histories. As were Smith's orders to “murder and plunder the enemies of 
the Saints.” Officially, the Church denied that the Danites existed at all. 
When confronted with documents proving their existence, the Church 
argued that Joseph Smith knew nothing about their activities. When 
confronted with evidence that he did, the Church argued that their 
activities were justified. 

What couldn’t be denied or justified was simply not talked about, like 
the Mountain Meadows massacre. The official Church policy was, ac- 
cording to one historian, to “shrink from it, to discredit any who try to 



78 THE MORMON MURDERS 



inquire into it, to refuse to discuss it,” and to refuse “to accept all the 
evidence. . . .” 

The early Church, like many utopian sects of the nineteenth century, 
had practiced blatant communism: not just good community values, not 
just helping people in need, but red-blooded communism : “From each 
according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” The idea came 
to Joseph Smith himself in a revelation from God (later called the Law 
of Consecration and Stewardship): Church members were to hand their 
property over to the Church (i.e., to Joseph Smith), who would then give 
them back what they needed, making them “stewards,” while keeping the 
rest in the hands of the Church (i.e., his hands) for the benefit of the poor. 

Communalism was taken up more eagerly still by Brigham Young as 
a solution to taming the hard frontier of 1860s Utah. Even as he himself 
became a highly successful frontier capitalist, Young created a series of 
experimental frontier cooperative communities, including, notably, 
Brigham City, in which, according to one historian, “the entire economic 
life of this community of 400 families was owned and directed by the 
cooperative association.” 

Needless to say, especially during the McCarthy era, a mainstream 
institution couldn't be seen as embracing communism. So yet another 
important aspect of the early Church conveniently disappeared from the 
record. 

Where it could, the Church simply rewrote the history books. In 
1965, for example, Parley P. Pratt's 1855 Key to the Science of Theol- 
ogy was rewritten to remove the lengthy discussion of polygamy. Mis- 
sionaries fanned out to libraries across the country offering to exchange 
old publications for “more up-to-date material.” To most librarians, the 
deal offered by the young missionaries was too good to pass up. The 
missionaries would hand them the new books, then suggest helpfully, 
“Now that you have these books which tell the truth about our reli- 
gion, undoubtedly you would like to discard other books in the library 
which tell lies about the Mormon Church. Other libraries have been 
glad to have this pointed out to them.” 

When a Mormon historian, Fawn Brodie, dared to write a neutral — 
and widely acclaimed — biography of Joseph Smith, No Man Knows My 
History , the Church promptly excommunicated her and published a shrill 
pamphlet in response called No, Ma'am, That's Not History, written by 
the Church's most beloved historian, Hugh Nibley. The pamphlet made 
up in sarcasm what it lacked in historical argument or analysis, referring 
variously to the author, a respected professor at UCLA, as “Mrs. Brodie,” 
“Mrs. B.” and “the lady.” 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 79 



But what about those things the Church couldn't deny, delete, or 
discredit? What about the documentary record that proved all the embar- 
rassing truths? The Church had a place for those too. 

The Vault. It sounded like the title of a Kafka novel. The Vault was the 
final resting place of all the uncomfortable truths. Its contents, according 
to legend, would shake the foundations of the Church of Jesus Christ of 
Latter-day Saints. Any document, letter, record, or journal that was too 
“hot,” that might cast doubt on the Prophet or on Church doctrine, was 
locked up forever in The Vault. No one knew exactly where it was — 
except that it was somewhere in the First Presidency building, a great 
stone, banklike structure near Temple Square, the sanctum sanctorum of 
Church business. The Vault's walls were said to be sixteen feet thick. It 
was filled with gold. It was as big as an underground garage. Only the 
Prophet himself knew the combination. 

No one knew exactly what was in it, either, and in the absence of 
information, speculation ran wild. According to one account, it contained 
the Urim and Thummim, the seer stones that Joseph Smith had used to 
“translate” the Book of Mormon. Others thought it must contain the 
missing 116 pages of the Book of Mormon. Some even suggested that the 
golden plates themselves had disappeared into The Vault. But why would 
the Church want to hide such things? What could be so damaging that 
it had to be kept secret from the faithful? 

Church spokesmen, of course, denied everything. At first, they even 
denied there was such a vault. Then they denied that it contained any- 
thing. Then that it contained anything sensitive. Then that they ever 
bothered to go inside. When asked why no one, not even their own 
historians, was allowed to review the materials, they argued that the 
contents were personal, mostly private journals of early Church leaders 
that contained embarrassing “intimate revelations.” They cited in partic- 
ular, the diary of George Q. Cannon, a former president of the Church. 
The diary contained repeated references to members of the Church who 
had confessed to some sin or other, and it was felt that those confessions 
deserved something like priest-penitent confidentiality. 

True or not, few believed it. Some tested the explanation and requested 
to see the journals of their own ancestors. Hugh Nibley asked to see a 
relative's diary that he himself had given to the Church only a few years 
before. His request was denied. A descendant of Frederick G. Williams, 
an early first counselor to the First Presidency of the Church, asked to 
see Williams's journal. The Church denied having it. It later turned up 
in the custody of Joseph Fielding Smith, the Church historian for forty 



80 THE MORMON MURDERS 



nine years before becoming president in 1970. Dozens of similar requests 
were turned away with polite circumlocutions or, if one pressed, outright 
lies. "If you had the discourtesy to ask them a direct question/' according 
to one critic, "they had a right to tell you what they needed to tell you 
in order to make you go away." 

That approach worked fine — as long as nobody dug up any new skel- 
etons. 



The policy of "lie and deny" kept the lid on Mormon 
history, but it was a public relations disaster. Anti-Mormon 
groups had a field day, accusing the Church of stonewalling its own 
members. What thinking person could believe a church that was afraid 
of its own past? From the other side, polygamists accused the Church of 
denying its true heritage at their expense. To the world, the LDS Church 
was looking more and more like an institution with something to hide. 

Finally, the Church caved in. Nothing that might come out could 
possibly do more harm than all the bad P.R. and speculation about 
the Church's secrets. In 1972, the Council of the Twelve appointed 
a new head of the Church Historical Department: Leonard }. Ar- 
rington. 

The son of an Idaho farmer, Arrington was hardly a radical, but he was 
unlike anything the Historical Department had ever seen. For years, it had 
been staffed exclusively by "a bunch of shirttail relatives of the General 
Authorities and people who had drifted there because they couldn't drift 
anywhere else," according to one insider. "Basically, they were people who 
had the combinations to the locks." 

In marked contrast, Arrington was a genuine historian — there had 
never been one in the Historical Department — and a good one. Although 
a devout Mormon, he had criticized the Church for not being more open 
about its past, and especially about the contents of The Vault. "It is 
unfortunate for the cause of Mormon history," he had written, "that the 
Church Historian's Library, which is in possession of virtually all of the 
diaries of leading Mormons, has not seen fit to publish these diaries or to 
permit qualified historians to use them without restriction." He also 




TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 81 



refused to heap the ritual scorn on Brodie’s biography of Joseph Smith, 
calling it more credible than the official biographies, which he described 
as “undeviating pictures of sweetness and light/' 

He even had the gumption to make some demands. His publications 
would not pass through the process known euphemistically as “Church 
correlation/’ They would not be censored by a panel of Church function- 
aries. “I won’t have the publications submitted to people who will take 
out facts that arc facts,” he declared. “/ will be the correlation committee. 
1 will attest to the factual accuracy of the books.” Although he would 
allow an “advisory member,” chosen by the General Authorities, to read 
his books before publication, the advisor would not be allowed to edit 
them — something that General Authorities had always done as a matter 
of divine right. 

To everyone’s astonishment, especially Arrington’s, the Church agreed 
to his demands, although they did appoint Apostle Boyd Packer, some- 
times known as “Darth Packer” for his imperial views on Church author- 
ity and dogma, to act as advisor to the department. When asked how he 
would deal with the special sensitivities of Church leaders like Packer, 
Arrington — equal parts optimist and diplomat — would say: “There are 
ways to say things that are more discreet than others, and we will try to 
be discreet about what we do. But we won’t compromise our integrity.” 

Fired by the conviction that “you could turn over any rock in Mormon- 
ism and you could easily find something that would support the traditional 
story,” Arrington laid out an ambitious slate of new projects: a one-volume 
history of the Church for a mainstream Mormon audience (told in “a way 
to educate Latter-day Saints while still leaving them feeling good”); an- 
other one-volume history for a non-Mormon audience to be written by 
Arrington himself; and, finally, the piece de resistance y a massive, defini- 
tive, sixteen-volume scholarly history of the Church to be written by 
various scholars. 

It was a thrilling idea — actually throwing the spotlight of history on all 
aspects of the Mormon experience, and it sent chills of anticipation down 
the spines of all but the most conservative Mormon scholars. Even before 
the major projects got under way, magazines like Sunstone appeared to 
test the new glasnost — journals of Mormon “thought” outside of direct 
Church control. They featured articles on the Church’s early com- 
munitarian efforts, the role of women in the history of the Church, 
discrepancies between the various accounts of the First Vision, and other 
formerly forbidden topics. 

Almost overnight, Mormon history became the rage. Even the most 



82 THE MORMON MURDERS 



obscure episodes, like Joseph Smith's money-digging activities, became 
the subjects of research and writing. Every scrap of paper, every historical 
document, every word ever penned by Church leaders became the subject 
of intense scrutiny for historical clues — not just by scholars, but by a 
legion of history-obsessed para-scholars, devout Mormons who followed 
every new discovery in the magazines. In a feeding frenzy, they devoured 
every fragment of the past that could be scared up from family chests and 
attic shoe boxes. 

But through it all, The Vault stayed closed. Arrington was allowed 
access to some Church documents (“Before, you practically had to have 
a blood relationship to Joseph Smith to see even casual documents,” says 
one insider), but the legendary treasure trove of early history remained 
inaccessible — which only added to the fury of the search. 

Documents had become the magic link to the past, the long-denied, 
long-hidden past. Dormant for so long, suddenly the market for Mor- 
monabilia came alive. And Mark Hofmann was right in the middle of it. 



In 1978, a young man walked into the bookstore run by 
Jerald and Sandra Tanner, the leading Mormon apostates 
and publishers of anti-Mormon literature, out of the parlor of their house. 
There was nothing distinctive about him; he seemed to be a typical young 
Mormon male, probably back from his mission, suddenly asking himself 
questions and hoping maybe the Tanners would have some answers. With 
the explosion of interest in Mormon history, they were seeing more and 
more of them lately. 

They all looked lost and uneasy, but this one seemed unusually ner- 
vous. His glance bounced from the pale green walls to the stained ceil- 
ing, to the drab bookshelves where the Tanners stacked their home- 
made books. 

“I have a document,” he finally said to Sandra Tanner. He had the 
high, nasal voice of a boy half his age. “It's from my grandpa's collection.” 
He held out a piece of paper. 

It was a photocopy of a handwritten “second anointing,” a ceremony 
performed in the early years of the Church only for V.I.P.s. Unlike the 
first anointing, the ceremony performed by all good Mormons in which 




TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 83 



they prepare for the Celestial Kingdom, the second anointing virtually 
guaranteed a position of prominence in the hereafter. It was the religious 
equivalent of an American Express Platinum Card. To maintain strict 
secrecy, the words of the second anointing ceremony were always memo- 
rized. Although a crib sheet still existed, it was never supposed to leave 
the Temple. At one time, a Church member caught copying or revealing 
those words could have been put to death. 

“My family wouldn't be comfortable with me being here," the young 
man explained, his eyes darting around the room again. “My grandpa has 
died, and my family has been sorting through all these papers and they 
came across this and I realized its significance and I don't want to see it 
buried and locked away so that no one would ever see it again. I thought 
someone should be aware of it." 

“Why did you come to us?" Sandra asked. 

“I know who you are," he said, gaining confidence. “I know about your 
work. I don’t necessarily agree with what you're doing except that you are 
preserving history and making it available for all scholars." 

So this nice Mormon boy was willing to risk his family's wrath, as 
well as his place in the Celestial Kingdom, by revealing this document 
to known apostates. And for what? For history? Sandra Tanner was 
skeptical. 

“What's your name?" she asked. 

“I can’t tell you who I am,” the boy said quickly. “I am from a 
prominent Mormon family, and you’d recognize the name of my grand- 
father." 

“Can you tell me the family name?" After several generations of polyga- 
mous marriages and huge families, giving your last name in Salt Lake City 
was like giving the name of your community — a general identification at 
best. 

But the boy balked again. “My family would be embarrassed that I am 
associated in any way with the Tanners," he said. “So why don't you just 
take it?" He seemed anxious to have it over with. 

Sandra looked at the paper again. It had “Salt Lake Temple" written 
across the top. It was probably genuine, she thought, but how could she 
ever prove it? If she didn't know the name of the family, there was no 
way to verify that it really was what this man claimed it was, no way to 
trace it back to the family. Without a provenance, it was useless. 

“Thank you," she said, taking the piece of paper with the certainty that 
she would never use it. “It's very interesting." 

The young man smiled a weird smile and walked out. 



84 THE MORMON MURDERS 



# # # 

A year later, Mark Hofmann appeared in the office of Jeff Simmonds, the 
curator of special collections and archives at Utah State, with a document 
he wanted to sell. It was a second anointing. 

Simmonds knew Hofmann about as well as anybody at Utah State. The 
two had spent hours together talking about Mormon history, especially 
the early period from 1839 to 1844, when Joseph Smith moved the 
Church to Nauvoo, Illinois. Although a sixth-generation Mormon by 
birth, and closely related to Smith, Simmonds was no Mormon — not even 
close. He not only liked to drink, he liked to talk about drinking (“I just 
drank lunch”), he cussed now and then, and he downed blasphemous 
amounts of coffee. 

But he was fascinated with Mormon history. Over the years, he had 
built what he called, tongue-in-cheek, “the third best collection of Mor- 
mon materials on earth.” The only problem was nobody wanted to use 
it. “P m less likely to get a student researching Brigham Young,” he used 
to say, “than one studying the otters in southern Utah.” 

Then along came Mark Hofmann. Hofmann not only knew loads about 
the most esoteric aspects of early history, almost as much as Simmonds 
himself, he wasn’t a stuffed shirt about it. He didn’t object when Sim- 
monds referred to the Church Office Building as the “Power Tower,” or 
E. T. Benson, future Prophet of the Church, as “Extra-Terrestrial Ben- 
son” for his serene dissociation from the real world. Simmonds realized 
early that Hofmann wasn’t one of those upright, uptight Mormon Bun - 
desjungen . , whose eyes flared with disdain every time someone ordered a 
Coke. In fact, in one of their few conversations about doctrine, Hofmann 
had made it clear that he “didn’t buy” the Book of Abraham, a portion 
of the Pearl of Great Price , which, along with the Book of Mormon and 
Doctrine and Covenants constituted the three gospels, or “triple combo,” 
of the Mormon faith. “Joseph Smith just made a mistake with that one,” 
Hofmann said fliply. 

At times, Hofmann was so cool that Simmonds had to look and make 
sure he still had that “little smile” — the telltale semicircular impression 
of the low-cut Temple garments under his shirt. Mormons and non- 
Mormons alike keep a sharp eye out for the little smile that sets the Saints 
apart. Hofmann always had one. 

After a while, teacher and student became like two jocks in a bar, 
swapping baseball stories about the spread of polygamy, obscure court 
records, and Kirtland bank notes. Every so often, especially when the 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 85 



conversation turned to Mormon money, even Simmonds's eyes glazed 
over and he was reminded of a sign in an Idaho Falls antique shop: 
BROWSING, FREE. $25 AN HOUR IF I HAVE TO LISTEN TO ALL THE THINGS 

your grandmother had. But most days it was “Hello, how's the weather, 
and let’s get down to Nauvoo in 1840." 

But Nauvoo wasn’t the only thing they had in common. There was The 
Word. 

Both Simmonds and Hofmann had devoured Irving Wallace's 1972 
thriller about ancient manuscripts, forgeries, and murder. In the fall of 
1979, they discussed the CBS mini-series, based on the book and broad- 
cast the previous year, and relived together all the excitement of Wallace's 
potboiler. How the impoverished Frenchman, Robert Lebrun, was be- 
trayed by the evil priest, Pere Paquin. How’ he plotted his revenge by 
planting a brilliant forgery that would rock the foundations of Christen- 
dom. For two men whose lives were wrapped up in documents, it was a 
delicious treat to read of Lebrun's meticulous forgeries; of the authentic 
papyrus leaves that he stole from museums; of the careful planning that 
went into the text of the forged document, the “lost" Book of James; and 
of his recipes for making and aging ink. 

Especially fascinating was the way Lebrun planted the forgery so that 
a professor of archaeology would “accidentally" discover it. Hofmann was 
particularly impressed with how brilliantly he planned every detail. Not 
even the greatest experts in the world could detect the forgery. They all 
pronounced it genuine. “Their egos would not let them do otherwise," 
Lebrun declares just before he is killed. 

“When I get ready to retire," Simmonds joked, “I'm going to forge the 
ultimate Nauvoo diary and sell it to B.Y.U." He and Hofmann had a good 
laugh over that. 

It didn’t bother Simmonds that his wife, Jeannie, a shrewd judge of 
people, took an “instant dislike" to the bookish, bespectacled new stu- 
dent, or that his usually blase staff “couldn't stand the guy." To Sim- 
monds, Mark was always a model of thoughtfulness, deference, and schol- 
arly dedication. So when he brought in a second anointing “from a 
relative’s attic" in excellent condition, Simmonds snapped it up for what 
he considered an excellent price: $60. 

Hofmann made him promise not to tell anyone where he got it. 



86 THE MORMON MURDERS 



On April 17, 1980, less than a year later and two weeks 
before the medical school entrance examinations, Hof- 
mann again came running into Simmonds’s office in the library at Utah 
State. He seemed agitated and out of breath. Simmonds knew immedi- 
ately something was up. It was so strange to see any kind of emotion on 
Mark’s placid face. 

Carefully, portentously, Hofmann laid an old Bible and a folded piece 
of paper on Simmonds’s desk and then began to tell his breathless but 
remarkably lucid tale. 

A month before, he had bought this 1668 Cambridge edition of the 
King James Bible from a Salt Lake City man. The man had occasionally 
sold him Mormon odds and ends in the past, but Hofmann was particu- 
larly struck by this Bible when he saw some handwriting inside and a 
signature in the name of Samuel Smith — the name of Joseph Smith’s 
grandfather. Not wanting to seem too nosy, he had inquired casually, 
“Where did you get this Bible?” 

“In Carthage, Illinois,” the man replied, naming the town in which 
Joseph Smith had died at the hands of an angry mob. 

Simmonds’s heart was already fluttering. But the best was yet to come. 

“I was in my apartment yesterday, about 4:30,” Hofmann continued, 
“when I saw that two of the pages in the Bible were stuck together with 
this funny black glue.” 

Simmonds wondered for a split-second why someone as sophisticated 
as Hofmann hadn’t examined the book more carefully when he bought 
it. 

“I don’t know why I never saw it when I flipped through the Bible 
before,” Hofmann went on without pausing. “I was trying to separate the 
pages as carefully as I could when I saw this piece of paper, stuck between 
the pages because of the glue.” 

Simmonds was on the edge of his chair. Maybe the folded sheet had 
been bound in by accident. The old book looked like it had been rebound 
at some point in its three-hundred-year history. 

Hofmann continued: “I managed to pry off the top page and there, on 
the paper, was the name ‘Joseph Smith Jr.’ ” 




TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 87 



Simmonds had already seen the signature on the folded piece of paper 
in front of him. It set his pulse pounding. He had seen Smith's signature 
on a host of documents, but this was different, this was a discovery. 

Hofmann told how he had carefully separated the document from 
the Bible with a razor blade but dared not go any further. The piece of 
paper had been folded in fourths and sealed with glue and he was terri- 
fied of damaging it. So he had brought it to his friend and mentor for 
help. 

There, clearly written on the outside was an inscription: “These carac- 
tors were dilligently coppied by my own hand. . . .” It was signed “Joseph 
Smith Jr.” Just by coincidence, a copy of Robert N. Hullinger's Mormon 
Answer to Skepticism was lying nearby on his desk, and Simmonds turned 
to the inscription by Joseph Smith: the word character was spelled without 
the h and with an o instead of an e. 

After ten seconds of silence in which Simmonds's mind raced in a 
thousand directions at once, Hofmann leaned over the desk and asked in 
a solemn sotto voce, “Do you think the signature is authentic?" 

Simmonds ran to his vault to fetch the only authentic signature by the 
Prophet that he had in his collection, one on a Kirtland bank note. The 
moment he laid the note next to the brown piece of folded paper, his heart 
nearly stopped. It was authentic. 

The two men stood looking at the two signatures for a long time before 
Hofmann finally asked, “How can we get this thing apart?" 

The problem was the adhesive. Simmonds had never seen anything like 
it, except maybe the tar that his father had used to seal the horse troughs 
on his family's farm. 

The closer he looked, the less it looked like an accident. Maybe the 
person who had rebound the Bible had glued the paper into the book for 
safekeeping, and then, over the years, the glue had oozed through, bond- 
ing the bottom of the document to the top, sealing it shut for what, a 
hundred years? a hundred and fifty? 

This wasn't a dream, he thought. This wasn't a novel. This was real, 
and it was happening to him. 

“How do you think you could remove the glue?" Hofmann asked, 
surprisingly calm and directed in the middle of such momentous events. 

Simmonds tried dissolving the glue with toluene, a mild solvent. Noth- 
ing. He took an X-Acto knife and tried scraping the glue. Nothing. Here 
I am, confronted with the archival find of the century, he thought, and 
/ can y t get it open ! 

Finally, in exasperation, he turned to Hofmann. “What would you say 



88 THE MORMON MURDERS 



if I just cut the damn thing?” It was like Simmonds to be so aggressively 
un-Mormon at a moment like this. 

Hofmann looked at him gravely, then nodded an okay. 

Simmonds was a little surprised and a little sorry he agreed. Now he 
would have to cut it. He brushed the wisps of hair from his forehead, 
swallowed hard and picked up the knife. Fighting to control his trembling 
hands, he slit the document open along the side where the tarlike glue 
had sealed it shut. He felt like a surgeon. The old, yellow paper yielded 
with frightening ease. “If this document is what I think it is,” he kept 
repeating to himself, “this is like wiping up a coffee stain with the Declara- 
tion of Independence.” 

Then he leaned down and peered into the slit. 

It was what he thought it was. 

Joseph Smith’s problems did not end the moment the Angel Moroni 
directed him to the place on Hill Cumorah where the golden plates 
were buried. Even after he translated the tablets and began to spread 
the word of his new religion, converts did not exactly flock to his door. 
The solution, he decided, was better publicity. He just needed to get 
the Book of Mormon into more hands. But to do that, he needed 
money. 

That was where Martin Harris fit in. A well-to-do and somewhat gull- 
ible farmer who was constantly chasing after new religions, Harris was 
prepared to sell his farm, worth $10,000, and give the money to Smith 
to finance the publication of the Book of Mormon. Harris would have 
done so if it weren’t for his wife, who was outraged at the notion. To 
placate her and to satisfy his own nagging doubts, Harris demanded to see 
the gold plates. Smith refused to allow that, but he did offer to show 
Harris a transcript of a small part of the Book of Mormon that Smith 
claimed to have hand-copied from the gold plates. 

Harris may not have been too bright, but he was industrious. He took 
Smith’s transcript east to show it to some experts, one of whom was 
Professor Charles Anthon at Columbia University. Anthon was not im- 
pressed by what he saw. He told Harris that the strange conglomeration 
of symbols given him by Smith belonged to no known language, and he 
suspected that the whole story of the gold plates was either a hoax or a 
fraud. Harris brought that bleak assessment back to Smith, but the 
Prophet had an answer for everything. The process of engraving the 
golden plates was so long and tedious, he explained, that the Nephite 
prophet Mormon (the ancient author of the Book of Mormon ) had turned 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 89 

to a “shorthand” Egyptian obviously unknown to Anthon. Smith called 
it “Reformed Egyptian.” 

That sounded good to Martin Harris. So good, in fact, that he began 
saying that Professor Anthon had, indirectly, confirmed that the charac- 
ters were genuine. When Anthon later learned that Harris was misrepre- 
senting his opinion, he was furious. “The whole story about my having 
pronounced the Mormonite inscription to be ‘reformed Egyptian hiero- 
glyphics' is perfectly false,” he wrote. In his opinion, the story of the gold 
plates was either “a hoax upon the learned” or “a scheme to cheat the 
farmer of his money.” Hoax or not, the transcript did succeed in parting 
the farmer from his money. Harris put up $5,000 for three thousand 
copies of the Book of Mormon. Soon thereafter, the so-called Anthon 
Transcript disappeared. 

Now, 150 years later, it was on Jeff Simmonds's desk. 

Simmonds rushed to his bookshelf, found his copy of Fawn Brodie's 
No Man Knows My History , and turned to page 5 1 . He knew just where 
to find Professor Anthon's description of the transcript that Harris had 
showed him. Simmonds’s eyes jumped electrically from the book to the 
paper. Every detail matched up perfectly: 

all kinds of crooked characters disposed in columns. . . . Greek and Hebrew 
letters, crosses and flourishes, Roman letters inverted or placed sideways, 
were arranged in perpendicular columns, and the whole ended in a rude 
delineation of a circle divided into various compartments, decked with 
various strange marks. . . . 

This was it. This was it — the high point of his career as an archivist. 
Simmonds handed the book to Hofmann, who took it as if it was some 
new and strange object and then read the passage with intense, childlike 
attention. When he looked up, his eyes were wide with excitement. “Do 
you think it could be?” 

Two days later, Hofmann arrived at the Church Office Building in Salt 
Lake City wearing the white shirt and tie he would always wear in dealings 
with Church officials. He walked into a hero's welcome. Dean Jessee, the 
Church's expert on Joseph Smith's handwriting, had seen the transcript 
the day before and pronounced the inscription authentic (pending more 
careful examination). Leonard Arrington, a man of considerable under- 
statement, now took one look at the document and said, “Well, well. This 



90 THE MORMON MURDERS 



looks very important. We ought to go tell Elder Durham." He and 
Hofmann paraded to G. Homer Durham's office on the second floor of 
the east wing of the Church Office Building, where they explained the 
significance of the discovery in terms that grew more glowing at each 
telling. Hofmann, of course, remained quiet and deferential throughout, 
smiling awkwardly, as though the publicity made him uneasy, as if he 
longed for the fuss to be over. 

Durham nodded wisely and said in his sententious voice, “Well, well, 
we ought to have a meeting of the First Presidency and let them know 
about this. This is very important.” 

In fact, few could remember any document quite so important. The 
meeting was set for 1:30 that afternoon. For an institution that usually 
moved at a glacial pace, that had only recognized the equality of blacks 
two years before, this was the equivalent of exultation. 

Hofmann's discovery could not have come at a better time. 

Ever since the previous December, when Sonia Johnson was excommu- 
nicated for espousing the Equal Rights Amendment, the Church had 
been under media siege. Johnson appeared on the “Donahue” show, and 
every day, national papers carried more damaging revelations about the 
Church's bitter campaign against the ERA. Mormon women had been 
bused into neighboring states to lobby legislatures where the amendment 
was under consideration. Substantial Church funds had not only been 
spent but had been secretly transferred from California to Florida to help 
defeat the amendment in that state. Journalists uncovered “irregularities” 
in the Church's lobbying practices, especially in Virginia, where Johnson 
lived. And when the Church sent one of its own, Apostle Gordon B. 
Hinckley, out to calm the Gentile press, he wasn't treated with anything 
like the deference that was due a man appointed by God. On the “Today” 
show, Tom Brokaw had the temerity to ask him if the Church wasn’t 
largely responsible for the ERA's defeat. Hinckley, of course, denied it. 

After six months of this relentless bashing, the LDS Church desper- 
ately needed some good press. 

Mark Hofmann provided it. 

At 1:30 in the afternoon, April 18, the governing board of the Church 
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints met in extraordinary session with 
Mark W. Hofmann. Two days before, he was an obscure student at Utah 
State. Now he was sitting with the representatives of God on earth in the 
boardroom of the First Presidency. 

Spencer W. Kimball, the twelfth Prophet, Seer, and Revelator of the 
Church, stood unsteadily over the document, looking at it through a 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 91 



magnifying glass. Although widely admired and surprisingly progressive, 
the eighty-five-year-old Kimball was known for wafting in and out of 
coherence. 

Gathered around Kimball at one end of the big corporate-style table 
were the “younger” men who really ran the Church. Men like N. Eldon 
Tanner, a former Canadian who, in his better days, had overseen the vast 
expansion of the Church's corporate empire but now, as Hofmann later 
told a friend, looked “kind of comatose.” The octogenarian Marion G. 
Romney, first cousin to George Romney, former Michigan governor and 
presidential candidate, sat in the corner humming to himself during most 
of the meeting. Apostle Boyd K. Packer, one of the most conservative of 
all the Church's leaders, was there, as was Gordon B. Hinckley, the former 
railroad CEO and media savant, still in favor despite the embarrassments 
of the Sonia Johnson-ERA debacle. 

The meeting lasted forty-five minutes. The elderly men asked questions 
and milled around one another to get just one more look at the little piece 
of yellow paper laid out on the enormous table. Someone commented, 
“Isn't it marvelous that this important document should have been 
brought to light during our sesquicentennial year?” A Church photogra- 
pher took pictures. Hofmann hovered over the document to the side, 
never straying far from it, answering questions with a combination of 
shyness and formality that delighted the Brethren. Nothing would have 
been more inappropriate in such august company than an open display 
of emotion. Hofmann was suitably humble. They were suitably pleased. 

Leonard Arrington explained that Hofmann's find was not only the 
earliest known example of the Prophet’s handwriting, it was nothing less 
than the document from which Smith personally transcribed the charac- 
ters from the gold plates. “In 1828," Arrington said, “this very piece of 
paper had lain on a table top alongside the sacred tablets." The leaders 
liked the sound of that. That pleased them very much. It was an inspiring 
image, a wonderful thought, especially in the way it made the gold plates 
so real. It would be repeated often, by Church officials and by Mark 
Hofmann. 

The Church, of course, couldn’t wait to add this treasure to its collection. 
They would have preferred it if Hofmann had donated the document, but 
they soon discovered that Hofmann wasn't nearly so self-effacing at the 
bargaining table as he was at the photo opportunity. He wanted $20,000. 
With rich businessmen, the Brethren could be powerfully persuasive. 
After all, they had a direct line to God — one bad word from them and 



92 THE MORMON MURDERS 



the “reserved” sign could be taken off a man’s place in the Celestial 
Kingdom. That tended to discourage the faithful from hard bargaining 
with the Church despite its vast wealth. But Hofmann could be excused. 
He was a young man with a family, just heading out into the world. 
Besides, $20,000 was a steal. 

Still, an exchange of money would not look suitably reverent, so they 
agreed instead on a trade. Hofmann would give them the transcript 
and they would give him materials from their archives worth about 
$20,000 — a first-edition Book of Mormon , , a $5 gold piece, and some 
Kirtland Safety Society bank notes. That way Church publications 
could honestly report that the Church had not paid for the document. 

Somewhere in all the excitement, someone suggested that perhaps they 
ought to authenticate the document before buying it. But that idea got 
nowhere. They wanted that document, and they wanted it now. 

On April 22, only two business days after Hofmann first brought it to 
them, Church officials signed the agreement. The next day, G. Homer 
Durham wrote to thank Hofmann for his “gift”: 

I am happy to write confirming the execution of the acquisition sheet and 
instrument of gift which was executed April 22, 1980 by yourself and 
Leonard J. Arrington. 

Once the document was safely in their hands, Church leaders rushed to 
make it public. The formal announcement came at the Mormon History 
Association meeting, which was being held that sesquicentennial year, 
suitably enough, in Palmyra, New York — the very place where, exactly 
1 50 years before, Joseph Smith had penned the Anthon Transcript. It was 
a public relations coup, orchestrated brilliantly by the Church’s public 
relations specialist, Gordon B. Hinckley. 

On May 3, 1980, the Salt Lake papers ran articles on the discovery, 
along with the picture taken in the boardroom showing Hofmann leaning 
protectively over the transcript while Kimball examines it with his magni- 
fying glass, utahan finds 1828 writing by prophet, trumpeted the 
Deseret News. 

Suddenly Hofmann’s face was everywhere: in Church publications, in 
newspapers, even on the television — in particular, the Church-owned 
CBS affiliate KSL. “It appears to be the earliest Mormon document,” 
he explained one night on the news, looking uncharacteristically rakish 
in a sporty print shirt. “Also I think it’s exciting to think apparently this 
piece of paper was copied by Joseph Smith’s own hand — the char- 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 93 



acters were. Just right from the golden plates that were right there.” 

Jeff Simmonds watched the outpouring of attention and stewed. The 
next time he saw Hofmann, he joked, with just a touch of bitterness, “I 
should have murdered you and added the manuscript to the special collec- 
tions.” 

Eventually, Don Schmidt, the Church archivist, took the new acquisition 
to B.Y.U. and had the photo studio run it through the standard ultraviolet 
and infrared examinations — ultraviolet to check for alterations or addi- 
tions, infrared to see if the ink was appropriate to the time period. It 
passed. Dean Jessee, the Church's handwriting expert, examined it again 
and gave it a definitive thumbs-up. The inscription was indeed written by 
Joseph Smith, he announced, and the paper was consistent with the 1828 
date. 

When Hofmann heard the results of the test, he seemed pleased but 
not entirely convinced. He suggested that maybe they ought to test the 
tarlike glue as well. He thought NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 
Pasadena, California, could probably do the job. Church officials admired 
his conscientiousness. “Isn't that just like Mark,” one of them said. 
“Never satisfied.” 



Nine months later, on February 12, 1981, Hofmann called 
Michael Marquardt, postal employee, documents investiga- 
tor, and arguably the most important terminus in the Mormon under- 
ground, the network of liberal Mormons and former Mormons who trade 
gossip about Church politics and photocopies of damaging Church docu- 
ments. The two men hadn't spoken since their first meeting, one week 
after the sale of the Anthon Transcript. 

After six months of silence, Hofmann wanted to talk about “the succes- 
sion problem” — the question of whether Joseph Smith, Jr., the Church's 
founder and Prophet, should have been succeeded by his son, Joseph 
Smith III, or Brigham Young. He also wondered if Marquardt, a “walking 
encyclopedia” on Mormon trivia, happened to know what Joseph Smith 
was doing on January 17, 1844. The conversation seemed strangely “out 
of the blue” to Marquardt, but he checked on the information and two 




94 THE MORMON MURDERS 



days later, when Hofmann called again, told him that Smith was at home 
that day. 

The next time Hofmann visited Church leaders, the occasion wasn't 
nearly so joyous. 

A year had passed since the discovery of the Anthon Transcript. Mark 
had forsaken his plans for medical school, dropped out of college, and set 
up shop as a full-time documents dealer. He had moved with Dorie, now 
pregnant, to Sandy, a small suburb south of Salt Lake City. Riding on the 
celebrity of the transcript, he had quickly established himself in the small 
community of collectors, doing a brisk business mostly in books and 
Mormon money. He had even done a few deals with the Church — 
although nothing like the Anthon. That had been a “once-in-a-lifetime 
find," he told friends. Now he was in the documents business for the long 
haul. 

Then lightning struck again. 

On February 16, he drove to the Church Office Building and walked 
directly into Don Schmidt's office. He didn't have to make an appoint- 
ment. No one stopped him; his face was well known by secretaries and 
guards. He handed Schmidt the photocopy of a document, and Schmidt 
read it without expression. 

“Have you showed this to anybody else?" he asked when he was fin- 
ished. 

“You're the first person." 

“How much do you want for it?" 

Hofmann suggested somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,000 — and 
he would take it, as before, in trade. But he also had something else to 
offer, something more than just the document, something equally valu- 
able. “I promise I won’t breathe a word of its existence to anyone," he 
told Schmidt. 

To Hofmann's surprise, Schmidt hesitated. 

Trying hard not to sound threatening, Hofmann added, “You know 
there are people who would be willing to pay me a lot more for this 
document." 

When Joseph Smith died in 1844, a dispute erupted over who should 
succeed him. On one side was Brigham Young, Smith's chief lieutenant 
and a powerful, charismatic leader. On the other side was Smith's eldest 
son, Joseph Smith III, an eleven-year-old boy overly attached to his domi- 
neering mother and chief sponsor, Emma Smith. While avowing alle- 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 95 



gianee to the young Smith, Young wasn’t about to serve as regent to a 
callow pre-teen. Seizing the initiative, he had himself declared Prophet 
and led most of his people on the arduous trail to Salt Lake City, where 
he founded an empire. Joseph III, Emma, and a small group of supporters 
stayed behind in Independence, Missouri, and fared considerably less 
well. 

Young’s church became the huge, wealthy LDS Church with more 
than five million members worldwide and, by some reports, ten thousand 
times that many dollars in the bank. Smith’s church, the Reorganized, or 
RLDS, Church, remained an obscure sect, with less radical ideas (no 
polygamy), fewer members (about 200,000), and not enough money to 
build a proper Temple. But they continued to claim, much to the chagrin 
of the General Authorities in Salt Lake City, that they were the true 
Church, that Brigham Young was a false prophet, that Joseph Smith III 
and his descendants were the true heirs to Joseph Smith’s church. 

And now Mark Hofmann had found a document that proved they were 
right. 

To Hofmann’s surprise, Schmidt said he wasn’t interested. The document 
wasn’t important enough, and the price was too high. 

But Hofmann was persistent. He came back twice more, the second 
time on February 23. This time, he said that if Schmidt wasn’t interested 
in the document, he knew someone who would be very interested. “I 
think the RLDS Church might possibly trade a Book of Commandments 
for it.” This was a rare, early version of Joseph Smith’s revelations from 
God, which was later enlarged and “corrected” by the First Presidency 
to become the Doctrine and Covenants . It was worth at least $30,000. 

“If you think you can get a Book of Commandments for it,” Schmidt 
chuckled, “then you ought to try.” 

As Hofmann expected, the RLDS Church wanted the blessing and 
wanted it badly. Madelon Brunson, Schmidt’s counterpart at the RLDS 
Church, was a bit taken aback when Hofmann said he wanted a Book of 
Commandments though. “Oh, my, that is quite a price,” she said over 
the phone when he called the next day. But within twenty-four hours, 
Richard Howard, the historian of the RLDS Church, was on the line, 
agreeing to meet with Hofmann on March 2 at the Church Office Build- 
ing in Salt Lake City to arrange the deal. 

In the meantime, Hofmann decided to give the LDS Church one last 
try. 

This time, he took the letter to Dean Jessee, ostensibly to ask his 



96 THE MORMON MURDERS 



opinion of the handwriting. But Jessee couldn't help reading the startling 
contents: 

A blessing, given to Joseph Smith, 3rd, by his father, Joseph Smith. . . . 

Blessed of the Lord is my son Joseph, who is called the third, — for the 
Lord knows the integrity of his heart, and loves him, because of his faith, 
and righteous desires. And, for this cause, has the Lord raised him up; 

. . . For he shall be my successor to the Presidency of the High Priesthood: 
a Seer, and a Revelator, and a Prophet, unto the Church; which appoint- 
ment belongeth to him by blessing, and also by right. 

The handwriting was neat and precise, nothing like Smith's hasty script. 
Jessee agreed with Hofmann that it must have been dictated by Smith 
to his secretary, Thomas Bullock. As if to remove any doubts, Smith had 
obligingly signed his name on the back and written the date: January 17, 
1844. 

Unlike Schmidt, Jessee knew a bombshell when he saw it. He immedi- 
ately called Earl Olsen, Schmidt's superior, and asked if he knew Schmidt 
had turned it down. Could Schmidt have bungled such a momentous 
decision on his own? 

Olsen knew nothing about it, but he wasn't going to make the same 
mistake himself. He took the matter to G. Homer Durham, who saw the 
letter's “importance" right away and called the Church's man for sensitive 
matters, Gordon B. Hinckley. 

Hinckley was no theologian, but he knew a public relations debacle 
when he saw it. The Reorganized Church in Missouri could blow this up 
into a national media circus, salt lake church based on bogus claim, 
old feuds rekindled by new discovery. The Mormon bashers 
back East would have a field day. It would be Sonia Johnson all over 
again. 

The word came down from above: of course the Church was interested 
in this document, very interested. On February 28, duly chastised, Don 
Schmidt called just about every dealer and collector of Mormon docu- 
ments he knew and put out the message: “Mark Hofmann was here and 
offered us something and wanted us to buy it. We're interested. If he 
comes to you, grab it." Then he called Hofmann: the Church had 
changed its mind, he said. It wanted the blessing after all. Was it still 
available? 

Hofmann mentioned his pending negotiations with the RLDS Church. 
He had written Howard giving him a deadline of March 8 and didn't feel 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 97 



that he could withdraw his offer before that time. Schmidt could only 
agree that, under the circumstances, it would be unethical for the LDS 
Church to interfere with Hofmann's negotiations with the RLDS 
Church. But that same night, Schmidt called back, more anxious than 
ever: Could Hofmann possibly meet with G. Homer Durham on March 
2, before he met with Howard? 

On the morning of March 2, Durham made the Church's position very 
clear: 'The Brethren very much want to acquire the document. Could you 
possibly free yourself from your negotiations with the RLDS Church?" 

Hofmann was the very model of deference. "Well, I see one possible 
way out of my agreement with them," he ventured. "In my last conversa- 
tion with Howard, he indicated that it would require perhaps several 
weeks before the blessing document could be authenticated." If the 
authentication couldn’t be completed by the March 8 deadline, the LDS 
Church could have it. Based on their experience with the Anthon Tran- 
script, of course, they wouldn’t need to bother with authentication. 

Hofmann repeated how uncomfortable he felt being sandwiched be- 
tween the two Churches, but Durham waved his concerns aside. All that 
mattered was that Hofmann free himself from his agreement with the 
RLDS Church. Durham and his bosses wanted that document. 

Hofmann went directly from his meeting with Durham to see Richard 
Howard, who had just received the letter with the March 8 deadline. "It 
will be impossible for the RLDS Church to authenticate the blessing 
document before that date," Howard said. Hofmann didn’t say anything. 
If Howard took his silence to mean that the deadline wasn’t binding, 
Hofmann later explained, that was his problem. 

Four days later, on March 6, Howard got a call from Lorie Winder of 
Sunstone , asking for any possible statement he might be willing to make 
on the Joseph Smith III blessing. "I have learned that the LDS Church 
acquired it from Mr. Hofmann this morning," she said. 

Howard was dumbstruck. Then furious. As far as he was concerned, the 
document had been sold out from under him. On March 3, he had told 
Hofmann that the tests couldn’t begin until March 17, and Hofmann had 
agreed to bring the document to Missouri at that time. 

Howard called Hofmann, who confirmed what Winder had told him. 
Then he called Don Schmidt and asked him for a certified photocopy of 
the blessing along with permission to publish it. Schmidt balked. "I’ll 
forward your request to my superiors," he said, referring to Olsen and 
Durham. “But you’ll have to put the request in writing first." 

Howard not only fired off a letter to Schmidt requesting the photocopy, 



98 THE MORMON MURDERS 



and letting him know what he thought of this kind of ecclesiastical 
cooperation, he also publicly accused Hofmann of “duplicitous negotiat- 
ing” and threatened to bring legal action against him for breach of 
contract. For a few anxious days, the incident threatened to explode into 
full-fledged sectarian warfare — just the kind of publicity that Hinckley 
dreaded most. The last thing the Church needed was a bitter custody 
battle fought in open court. 

But the cat was already out of the bag. Within days of the “secret” 
March 6 signing, calls started coming in from Time , the New York Times , 
the Los Angeles Times , and other magazines and newspapers across the 
country. Clearly it was too late for a cover-up. A lengthy court battle 
might keep the document out of the hands of the RLDS Church, but 
nothing would keep it out of the papers. 

Under the circumstances, Hinckley must have decided it was better to 
release the document to the press immediately rather than be killed slowly 
by leaks and innuendo. Of course, Church officials strived mightily to put 
the document “in context,” as they liked to say. Jerry Cahill, the Church 
spokesman, described it to the press as merely “an interesting historical 
footnote.” Gordon B. Hinckley himself, waxing sentimental, called it “a 
father's blessing given upon the head of a son he loved” — the equivalent 
of a Hallmark greeting card: sweet and touching, but hardly historic. 

Less than two weeks after acquiring it, Hinckley decided to turn the 
document over to the RLDS Church in exchange for the Book of Com- 
mandments Hofmann had demanded. Richard Howard was summoned 
again from Independence, and the two Churches held a joint press confer- 
ence to announce the exchange. It was yet another public relations coup 
by the Church's P.R. genius. What better way to play down the docu- 
ment's importance and put an end to media coverage than to give it up? 

And the Church made almost $10,000 in the bargain. 

And most important, Hinckley had learned an important lesson. In the 
future, he would deal with Mark Hofmann personally. 

During the negotiations between the two Churches, Richard Howard 
asked Don Schmidt to provide a provenance for the document. Schmidt 
called Hofmann and asked, “Could you provide an affidavit from the 
person who sold it to you? Would that be possible?” 

“No problem,” said Hofmann. 

Sometime later, he produced a notarized statement from Allen Bullock 
of Coalville, Utah, the descendant of Thomas Bullock from whom he had 
bought the document. But, he told Schmidt, you must never, under any 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 99 



circumstances, make this affidavit public. You can only inform the RLDS 
Church that it exists. Later, when Schmidt telephoned to get some 
additional information on Allen Bullock, Hofmann supplied him with a 
middle name, Lee, and a year of birth, 1918. But, he cautioned again, the 
name must never be made public. “Allen Bullock also has some important 
papers concerning Brigham Young’s finances that would be very embar- 
rassing to the Church,” he warned. Better not to stir those dirty waters. 



Mark Hofmann had the golden touch. 

If it had anything to do with Mormon history, Hof- 
mann was the man to see. If you were a dealer or a collector and you 
wanted a particular kind of document, Hofmann was the man to see. If 
you had a lead on a rare document and you wanted someone to track it 
down, Hofmann was the man to see. Of course, it wasn’t all luck, he 
would say. He was, after all, “the only person on earth who is actively, and 
on a full-time basis, pursuing Mormon documents.” Other collectors had 
jobs or businesses to tend to, but Hofmann was out there, twenty-four 
hours a day, sifting through public records, flying around the country, 
even canvassing Utah towns door to door, beating the bushes of history. 

And what about his close ties to the Church? No one could remember 
Hofmann actually bragging — that wasn’t his style — but somehow every- 
one knew how tight he was with Church officials, especially Hinckley. 
They knew about their regular phone calls and meetings. Everyone knew 
that since the Anthon Transcript deal he had virtually unlimited access 
to the First Presidency archives. (According to one source, Hofmann had 
actually seen the fabled seer stones. “They’re like brown chocolate eggs 
with white stripes,” he reported.) What better source for leads on missing 
artifacts than the one who had access to the confidential journals and 
other secrets of The Vault? 

Even with all that, though, Hofmann’s knack for finding just the right 
document for the right collector was truly beyond belief. 

Since his arrival in Utah in 1953 with all his earthly possessions stuffed 
in the back of his car, A1 Rust had parlayed a love of coins into a $6 
million-a-year business with two stores — one for each of his sons. A sweet- 
tempered, affable man with a face as elastic and disarming as the Cow- 




100 THE MORMON MURDERS 



ardly Lion's, Rust had only three passions in life: the LDS Church, his 
family, and Mormon money. 

Like many collectors, Rust looked forward to Mark Hofmann's unan- 
nounced visits. Not just because Hofmann was a good source, although 
he was; and not just because Hofmann promised to cut him in on some 
fabulously profitable deals, although he did. (Rust, in fact, had loaned him 
$10,000 to buy the Joseph Smith III blessing.) Rust saw Hofmann as a 
kindred spirit, someone who could, like Rust, spend hours talking about 
obscure issues of Mormon currency — a service that Rust found especially 
helpful at a time when he was trying to put the finishing touches on his 
five-year magnum opus, Mormon and Utah Coin and Currency. 

Among the few items missing from Rust's book were 'Valley notes," 
the earliest printed money used in Utah. Also known as white notes, these 
two-inch by four-inch handwritten bills had circulated only briefly for a 
few years starting in 1849, when the dies used to strike gold coins broke. 
Although descriptions existed in various journals, no examples had ever 
been found. 

In March 1981, Mark Hofmann walked into Rust’s Coin Shop in Salt 
Lake City with eight of them. 

Rust thought he had died and gone to heaven. What the Holy Grail 
was to the Crusaders, what the Ark of the Covenant was to archaeologists, 
these eight little slips of paper were to a Mormon-currency collector. At 
the mere sight of them, Rust went breathless. When he regained his 
composure, he handed them back to Hofmann. "Don't tell me what you 
want for them," he said. "They’re too valuable." A devout Latter-day 
Saint, he insisted, "They should go to the Church." 

Later the same day, Hofmann appeared in Don Schmidt’s office and 
told him he had found four valley notes. Schmidt bought all four for 
$20,000. It was a steep price, but they were, Hofmann didn’t fail to point 
out, the only four in existence. He then returned to Rust and sold the 
remaining four for an additional $12,000. Rust considered it a bargain 
price — after all, there were only eight in existence. 

Until several months later, that is, when Hofmann returned to Rust’s 
shop and said he had discovered nine more valley notes. This time, Rust 
received the news with considerably less enthusiasm. When there were 
only eight in existence, half of which were locked away in the Church 
archives, $3,000 apiece was a steal. Now with seventeen in existence . . . But 
if he didn't buy them, Hofmann would sell them to someone else for 
less and the price of his notes would go down. The only way to protect 
the price was to take them off the market. That cost him an additional 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 101 

$27,000. But he was grateful that Hofmann had brought them to him in 
the first place. 

In late 1982, Hofmann showed up with another find of a lifetime: 
Spanish Fork Cooperative notes. 

Brigham Young had established scores of small utopian communities, 
or cooperatives, all over Utah, some of which issued their own primitive 
currency. Yet no examples had ever been found. “Wouldn't it be great," 
Rust had fantasized to Hofmann one day, “if some of those notes actually 
showed up." 

Not long afterward, as if by a miracle, Hofmann returned with copies 
of notes issued by the cooperative at Spanish Fork, Utah. 

Rust could hardly believe it. How exciting it was to be in on the 
discovery from the very beginning. What an exciting life Mark Hofmann 
led. What a reasonable price $2,500 was for such rare items. 

It didn't seem to diminish the thrill too much that Hofmann returned 
in early 1983 with yet another set of notes that he was sure Rust would 
want to include in his book — it was, after all, the only other set in 
existence; and the price was only $1,500 this time. Later, Hofmann sold 
still another set of the notes to a collector in Arizona, and still another 
set to the Church. 

Brent Ashworth also had a wish list — although looking around the Philip- 
pine mahogany walls of his study, one wouldn't have thought so. Behind 
the floral-patterned, L-shaped sofa were rows of framed documents: a bill 
from Paul Revere; letters from Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and 
George Washington; an original copy of the Thirteenth Amendment to 
the Constitution, including all the original signatures. The bookcase on 
one wall was stocked with dozens of first editions, including a 1611 first 
edition of the King James Bible. It was just the blue-chip collection one 
would expect from a well-heeled lawyer who, at age thirty-one, had already 
landed a job he would probably have the rest of his life: vice-president and 
legal counsel for Nature's Sunshine Products, a company owned by his 
cousin. 

What could a young dealer in Mormon documents like Mark Hofmann 
possibly have that would interest a man who already had it all? 

Salvation. 

For Ashworth, Hofmann wasn't just selling documents, he was selling 
status within the Church — status in this world that could eventually be 
cashed in for status in the next. An astonishingly honest man, Ashworth 
would come close to admitting as much in conversation: Mormon docu- 



102 THE MORMON MURDERS 



ments were his entree to the Celestial Kingdom. He had almost missed 
the boat once, at age nineteen, when he skipped the two-year mission 
expected of all able Mormon males. 

Hofmann's documents gave him a second chance. That's why he 
wasn't interested in anything that wasn't what the Church called ''faith 
promoting." Hofmann could bring him Joseph Smith's teen diary, but if 
it didn’t hew to the Church line, if it didn’t support the Church's ver- 
sion of its own history and doctrines, Ashworth wasn't interested. If he 
wanted history, he could buy another Washington or Lincoln. When it 
came to his religion, there had to be, in his phrase, a "religious-spiritual 
payoff." 

On March 6, 1982, Hofmann drove to Ashworth's home in Provo, an 
hour south of Salt Lake City and home to B.Y.U. The house was an odd 
one for Utah: more solid than most, all cut stone and mahogany boards, 
but idiosyncratically arranged. Like the Temple and the Tabernacle in 
Salt Lake City, it was a building designed by a man who believed good 
materials and hard work were incapable of producing bad results. A mural 
with a Mormon theme over the staircase announced the family's devout- 
ness, and the long row of photographs in the living room, of Ashworth's 
beautiful dark-haired wife and six handsome children, proved his adher- 
ence to the Mormon ideals of family and fruitfulness. 

Hofmann settled on the edge of the L-shaped sofa in front of the 
Revere and the Washington and very carefully pulled a sheet of paper 
from his portfolio. Ashworth took it and peered at it closely through his 
huge, horn-rimmed glasses. As he read, his fleshy cheeks and chin began 
to tremble. He was always a little nervous, on edge about doing the right 
thing, but this wasn't nerves. It was sheer elation. 

Suddenly, he leaped from his chair and reached for the nearest frame, 
the letter from Abraham Lincoln making Sherman a general. Would 
Hofmann take that in exchange? He ran to the three-page letter by 
George Washington, written a week before Washington's death. What 
if he threw that in as well? It was the latest Washington letter known to 
be in private hands. And — he ran across to another wall — the letter from 
Robert E. Lee to Jefferson Davis saying the Confederate cause was lost. 
"I have to have this," Ashworth pleaded, hugging the document Hof- 
mann had shown him. 

When Joseph Smith began telling people that an angel had led him to 
the golden plates from which he translated the Book of Mormon , , not 
everyone believed him. It didn't help that when they asked to see these 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 103 

golden plates, Smith explained that he had given the plates back to the 
angel. 

To buttress his claim, he had two groups of men attest to the fact that 
they “beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon/' The first 
three — Martin Harris, David Whitmer, and Oliver Cowdery — were re- 
portedly shown the plates by an angel. A second group of eight men — all 
but one relatives of either Whitmer or Smith himself — were reported only 
to have seen the plates. But there was very little direct evidence of these 
events. There was no direct evidence from Harris, for example, that he 
had done anything more than hold a box that Smith told him contained 
the plates, not that he had actually seen them, certainly not that he had 
seen an angel. 

It didn't help much that two of the three key eyewitnesses, Martin 
Harris and Oliver Cowdery, were later excommunicated from the Mor- 
mon Church and that the third, David Whitmer, left of his own accord. 
Harris, in particular, was no Rock of Gibraltar. When he became a 
Mormon, he had already tried out four or five other religions. Even the 
conservative Mormon historian Richard Anderson later admitted that 
Harris was disposed to a certain amount of “religious instability." Joseph 
Smith put it more bluntly, calling Harris “too mean to mention” and 
telling people that God Himself had called Harris “a wicked man.” 

The document Brent Ashworth “had to have” was a one-page letter from 
Martin Harris, written in 1873, forty-six years after the momentous events 
in Palmyra, New York. 

I now solemnly state that as I was praying unto the Lord that I might 
behold the ancient record, lo there appeared to view a holy Angel, and 
before him a table, and upon the table the holy spectacles or Urim and 
Thummim, and other ancient relics of the Nephites, and lo, the Angel 
did take up the plates and turn them over so as we could plainly see the 
engravings thereon, and lo there came a voice from heaven saying ‘I am 
the Lord/ and that the plates were translated by God and not by men, 
and also that we should bear record of it to all the world, and thus the 
vision was taken from us. 

If Mary had recorded her version of the Annunciation, if the Apostles had 
penned letters home about the Last Supper, if the soldier guarding 
Christ's tomb had written a memoir, that's how important Harris's letter 
was. Here for the first time was written, firsthand confirmation by Martin 



104 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Harris of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, the golden plates, and, most impor- 
tant, the divine origin of the Book of Mormon — all from a man who was 
known to be resentful of his treatment at the hands of Smith and his 
followers, a man who had every reason to cast doubt on the Mormon 
religion. 

The letter even quoted God . 

If anything would ever elevate Ashworth in the Church’s grace, if 
anything would ever make up for the undone mission, this was it. That’s 
why he had to have it. 

When Mark Hofmann finally left that night, he had $27,500 worth of 
Ashworth’s documents under his arm. 

In July, Hofmann was back with another astonishing discovery: a letter 
from Joseph Smith’s mother, Lucy, to her brother, Solomon Mack, dated 
January 23, 1829, which described some of the material in the lost 116 
pages of the Book of Mormon. (When Martin Harris returned from 
showing the transcript to Professor Anthon, he served as Joseph Smith’s 
scribe while Smith “translated” the first 116 pages of the Book of Mor- 
mon, dictating to Harris from behind a screen. To appease his skeptical 
wife, Harris implored Smith to let him take the pages home to show her 
and, when he did, promptly lost them. Some suspected the shrewish Mrs. 
Harris of destroying them. In any case, they hadn’t been seen since. If 
they ever did turn up, this letter from Smith’s mother could be used to 
validate them.) 

It was also the earliest known letter by the Prophet’s mother, anticipat- 
ing by some two years an 183 1 letter, also to her brother, containing some 
surprisingly similar passages, but no mention of the contents of the 116 
pages. In fact, it was the first-known document from anyone to anyone 
relating to the history of the Church. 

To those who knew anything about Mormon history, it was a truly 
historic find. For years skeptics had been saying that Smith waited a 
suspiciously long time before recording his First Vision. If he really had 
a vision from the Lord in 1820, why wasn’t it described in writing until 
1838? Here was a description written as early as 1829 that conformed 
exactly with the version that the Church had selected — among the several 
Smith left behind — as the genuine version. 

Ashworth later recalled that he “fell out of his chair” when he saw how 
important the letter was. Once again, he had to have it. 

But Hofmann hesitated. “Don’t you think maybe the Church ought 
to have it?” he suggested. 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 105 



“Oh, no, Mark. This is one I really have to have.” At that moment, 
he didn't seem to care about the Church, the cost, or the Celestial 
Kingdom. He wanted that letter. 

And he went to the wall to get it. 

He pulled down his pride and joy, the framed original copy of the 
Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. “Would you take this?” he 
asked breathlessly. Before Hofmann could answer, he pulled two letters 
off the wall, the Benjamin Franklin and an Andrew Jackson. Then he 
went to the bookshelf. How about the Solomon Maximarius , the book 
Joseph Smith's grandfather wrote in 181 1? It was the only copy in private 
hands. 

All the time Ashworth was running around the room, Hofmann was 
totting up values in his head. He wanted $30,000 for it, and Ashworth 
was short. No problem, said Ashworth. Hofmann added some items to the 
list. By the time he was done, the total had climbed to well over $30,000 
by Ashworth's estimate, but he didn't care. The letter was priceless. 

But Ashworth did have one request. He insisted that Hofmann's role 
be kept strictly confidential; that Hofmann let him take credit for the 
discovery. 

To his delight and surprise, Hofmann agreed without an argument. 

When Ashworth's discovery of the Lucy Mack Smith letter was an- 
nounced at a press conference in August, the Church was so pleased 
that the First Presidency invited Ashworth and his wife to a meeting 
afterward. It was the Mormon equivalent of an audience with the Pope. 
For a devout Mormon, there was nothing more thrilling this side of 
death. 

The Church leaders muttered their congratulations. “Nice job.” “It's 
very exciting.” “We like what you’re doing.” Gordon Hinckley, since 
elevated to the First Presidency, shook Ashworth's hand and looked deep 
into his eyes. “Keep up the good work,” he said. “What you're doing is 
a positive thing for the Church.” Ashworth smiled his nervous smile and 
unstuck his tongue long enough to say, “The real joy to me is getting 
something that the Church that I believe in can use.” 

The Prophet, Spencer W. Kimball, now eighty-seven and feeble, en- 
tered the room slowly, looked at the Lucy Mack Smith letter — he was, 
in fact, related to her — and posed for a picture with Ashworth and his 
wife. (The picture was later sent to all the stakes in the Church to show 
that President Kimball was still, in Ashworth's word, “viable.”) Not that 
he was all that “viable.” Mostly, he wandered around the room, ignoring 



106 THE MORMON MURDERS 



the letter. At one point, he turned to Ashworth and mumbled, “I love you, 
1 love you.” 

Later, Ashworth would tell friends that there, in the presence of the 
Prophet, he had had a “spiritual experience.” 

Shrewdly, Ashworth held off announcing the Martin Harris letter until 
October, at the General Conference, a twice-yearly convocation of Mor- 
mons from around the world. It was also the conference at which the 
Church planned to announce, with great fanfare, the new subtitle of the 
Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ (There had been 
an Old Testament, then a New Testament; now there would be Another 
Testament.) What could be more appropriate for such an occasion than 
the discovery of Martin Harris's written testimony that the gold plates 
did, in fact, exist? It was so fortuitous that some devout Mormons at- 
tributed it to divine intervention. 

With the round of interviews and the spotlight of national media 
coverage on him, Ashworth felt like a “personal crusader for the Church.” 
At the press conference, he played his part well, telling reporters, “I feel 
like the letter supported that new title, that this is also a testament of 
Christ. I felt like the Church would use the letter in the way the writer 
intended.” Letters poured in from Church members all over the United 
States and around the world, congratulating him on his find. The docu- 
ment was featured in Church publications and both local papers, as well 
as on local television stations. In the Deseret News, it merited a full-page 
write-up, accompanied by heartwarming words from G. Homer Durham: 
“Because it is a signed statement, it represents one of the most significant 
documents regarding [the] coming forth of the Book of Mormon, Another 
Testament of Jesus Christ ” Another commentator called it a veritable 
“festival” of faith promotion. 

After the hubbub died down, Hofmann tried to persuade Ashworth to 
donate both the Harris letter and the Lucy Mack Smith letter to the 
Church — or at least sell them to the Church. “You know, you ought to 
try to do that before G. Homer Durham dies,” he prompted. “I think you 
could get a complete set of Mormon gold for them.” But Ashworth 
wouldn't hear of it. He loved too much the limelight they brought. 
Instead, he had thousands of copies printed up — on yellow paper, to make 
them look old — and gave hundreds of talks to Church groups about how 
these documents had reaffirmed his faith. 

It wasn't any wonder that collectors like Ashworth and Rust put up with 
unreturned phone calls; erratic, unannounced visits; occasional bounced 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 107 



checks; bizarre behavior; and especially Hofmann’s stubborn refusal to 
reveal his sources. That was, they told themselves, part of the business. 
And besides, the profits — however you calculated them — were too good 
to question. 



Every Wednesday morning, Ashworth would come to Hof- 
mann’s house and sit in the cramped living room while 
Mark reclined in one La-Z-Boy and Doric in another. They talked mostly 
about things “in the woodwork” — collector talk. Then they would meet 
again every Wednesday afternoon at the Crossroads Mall in downtown 
Salt Lake City. It was such a routine that Mark’s three kids had come to 
think of Ashworth as a kind of uncle. 

Only this Wednesday, Mark wasn’t home. 

Ashworth was willing to wait, but he had to rearrange his schedule. He 
asked Dorie if he could use the phone. 

“The one up here doesn’t work,” she told him. “You’ll have to use the 
one in the basement.” 

The phone hung on the wall in the hall next to the door to Mark’s 
workroom. The door was open. Ashworth looked inside and saw a clutter 
of papers, including a stack of old cover letters lying on the floor. It would 
be so easy, he thought, just to walk in and see what Mark had in the 
pipeline. Knowing Mark, there were probably some valuable things lying 
around. It was tempting. Extremely tempting. 

No, he decided. That’s Mark’s business. He shouldn’t butt in. 

Mark came home while he was still on the phone. When he saw 
Ashworth, he became suddenly agitated — more agitated than Ashworth 
had ever seen him. As soon as he was off the phone, Mark nervously 
hustled him up the stairs. I guess that area’s off-limits, Ashworth thought. 




108 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Hofmann was on a roll. Profits from the big deals with the 
Church, Rust, Ashworth, and others, plus dozens of little 
deals began to add up. He was doing more and more business out of town 
as well — jetting off to New York on a moment's notice. In March 1983, 
he bought his father's old house in Millcreek, the house in which he had 
grown up, and moved his family back to Salt Lake City. Within a year 
or so, he bought himself a racy blue Toyota MR2 and installed a cellular 
phone — a necessity for fast-breaking deals, he told Dorie. Some friends 
wondered why Hofmann, the ultimate low-profile pragmatist, would buy 
such a snappy, impractical car. Wouldn't he want something less cramped 
for his long document-hunting expeditions into rural Utah? And how 
would it fit his family, now grown to five? But as long as he was successful, 
nobody fretted too much over such questions. 

Nor did they complain that he wasn't seen around the ward house 
very much. The rumor had spread quickly through the Mormon grape- 
vine that Mark Hofmann was on a first-name basis with several Gen- 
eral Authorities and that he was doing the entire Church an invaluable 
service in hunting down documents. So if he kept to himself, missed 
church now and then, rarely entertained, and spent inordinate amounts 
of time in his basement study, nobody was going to make a fuss. Hof- 
mann, the neighbors agreed, had his own way of working. Strange, per- 
haps, but undeniably successful. 

In September 1982, Peggy Fletcher, editor of Sunstone magazine, 
managed to catch the high-flying documents dealer for an interview, 
subtitled "How to avoid medical school but still make the bucks." 

How do you go about finding documents? Do you have specific items in 
mind which you actively pursue or do you simply cover whole geographical 
areas where there might be documents? 

When I first got started there were very few sources for the material 
I was interested in. Then I started getting more aggressive. I have gone 
door to door in places like Cedar City looking for things rumored to be 
there. I didn't know any other way of finding them. 

Mostly what I do nowadays, though, is just track down leads. In fact, 




TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 109 



I now have someone working for me strictly to pursue leads. And I could 
probably afford to hire even a few more people. 

Hofmann met Lvn Jacobs at Deseret Book, a watering hole for dealers, 
collectors, students and various other eccentrics who shared an obsession 
with Mormon history. The son of a Church-employed electrical engineer, 
Jacobs worked in the Church’s genealogical library to help pay his way 
through the University of Utah and support his passion for collecting 
foreign-language books on Mormonism — a Book of Mormon in Hindi or 
a Doctrine and Covenants in Czech — an esoteric specialty even by Mark 
Hofmann’s standards. 

Jacobs was what people in Salt Lake City called flamboyant. He had 
been on a mission to Quebec, had visited Los Angeles often, and knew 
big-city life. With his stylish, skintight European clothing, tight, dark 
ringlets of hair, calibrated walk, and roller-coaster patter, he seemed to 
be on a personal mission to bring the flamboyant life-style of the So- 
doms and Gomorrahs of the coasts to Brigham Young’s backward king- 
dom. Jacobs wasn’t the kind to hide his lights. If nothing else, even his 
detractors admitted, he was a welcome relief from the great, grinning 
goodness of Mormon culture, a crystal of salt on a vast landscape of 
mashed potatoes. 

It was really this distinctiveness, more than the usual mutual obsession 
with Mormonabilia, that drew Hofmann to Jacobs. Hofmann, too, 
seemed to Jacobs somehow outside the mainstream. Unlike Jacobs, he 
could "pass” — he looked so unassuming, almost dopey, Jacobs thought. 
He would walk in with that black-hole look on his face and say in the most 
unassuming voice, “Oh, dear, I found something today . . .” then drop 
a bombshell on you. Jacobs wasn’t nearly so adroit with people — but he 
was smart. Hofmann used him mostly to handle the minor documents. 
“He was too busy to take care of every one of his dippy little things,” says 
Jacobs “He had so much going on every day he would shove something 
off on me.” 

And it was okay with Jacobs that Hofmann didn’t want his name 
involved in the deal. That just made Jacobs look better. He took his 
cut — usually in the form of some little pamphlet he wanted for his collec- 
tion — and signed the check, if there was one, over to Hofmann. 

Once you have found an item , how do you determine if it's authentic? 

Actually, to authenticate a Mormon item — at least so far — has been 
easier than the same process for, say, Lincoln or Washington letters. 
There have been all kinds of Lincoln forgeries around and even though 



110 THE MORMON MURDERS 



I’m in the business, 1 wouldn't buy a Lincoln letter without getting 
one of the few persons I respect as experts to authenticate it. To date 
that hasn't been a real problem with Mormon documents. Now, how- 
ever, with the publicity that's been given the tremendous amount of 
money to be realized . . . there may be some temptation to forge. 

More than a year after discovering the Anthon Transcript, Hofmann 
drove back to the site of that first triumph, the special-collections archive 
at Utah State University, to see Jeff Simmonds. He had yet another 
startling find to show his old mentor. It was a letter from Joseph Smith 
himself, addressed to Maria and Sarah Lawrence, two of his plural wives, 
ages nineteen and seventeen. 

Dear Maria & Sarah: — 1 take opportunity this morning to communicate 
to you two some of the peepings of my heart; for you know my thoughts 
for you & for the City & people that I love. God bless & protect you all! 
Amen. 1 dare not linger in Nauvoo Our enimies shall not cease their infernal 
howling until they have drunk my lifes blood. ... I want for you to tarry 
in Cincinnati untill you hear from me. Keep all things treasured up in your 
breasts, burn this letter as you read it. 1 close in hast. Do no dispare. Pray 
for me as I bleed my heart for you. 

The letter not only added weight to the argument, which made the 
Church very uncomfortable, that Joseph Smith was an ardent polygamist, 
it also shed some new light on one of the more colorful incidents in his 
exceedingly colorful life. After being appointed legal guardian to Maria 
and Sarah Lawrence upon the death of their father, Smith was discovered 
in flagrante delicto with the elder daughter, Maria. One of the other 
guardians, William Law, filed charges against Smith, and an indictment 
was issued accusing him of “adultery and fornication." 

Simmonds examined the document and looked at Hofmann. “I think 
it's a fake." 

Hofmann looked surprised, but not upset. “Do you really think 
so?” 

Not long afterward at a restaurant in Boston, where they were attend- 
ing a book fair, Hofmann gave Lyn Jacobs and a group of friends a basic 
lesson on the ins and outs of forgeries — to help in detecting them, he said. 
On the paper tablecloth, he drew them a George Washington, an Abra- 
ham Lincoln, a Walt Whitman, and a Joseph Smith. “He talked about 
lifts and pressure points and a whole host of things," Jacobs recalls. “He 
really knew his stuff." 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 1 1 1 



Do you keep any of the documents you find for your own collection? 

My basic technique is to turn over material as fast as 1 can. If you buy 
things at a good price, there's a tremendous amount of money to be 
made. I try to sink as much of it as I can back into the search. My 
strategy isn't necessarily to get top dollar for every item but just to sell 
it so 1 have more money to keep looking. The real reward in the whole 
business is being able to see things that no one else knows about. It 
gives me a kick to know that this is original stuff, that no one else on 
earth has pieced this together or knows what this says. So there's the 
pleasure. It's like being a detective. 

Sounds like a fascinating life. 

Although I do have fun, it's really not as romantic as it sounds. It seems 
like you always have people who hate you or are mad at you. 

One day, Hofmann handed Lyn Jacobs a small piece of paper with the 
words Maid of Iowa printed on it. Jacobs recognized it instantly. 

It was a ticket from a Mississippi steamboat, the Maid of Iowa, of which 
Joseph Smith was half owner. Smith gave out tickets like favors: if he liked 
you, you got a ticket with your name written on it and signed by him. If 
he didn't like you, you had to figure out a different way to get across the 
river. Jacobs did some quick estimating in his head. The Joseph Smith 
signature: $1,000. Nauvoo imprint (rare): another $1,000. The ticket had 
Brigham Young's name on it (rarer still): another $500. It had been 
co-signed by Emma Smith (extremely rare): a couple of thousand at least. 

Then there was the uniqueness factor: no Maid of Iowa ticket had ever 
been found. 

Not long afterward, Don Schmidt bought it for the Church for $2,500. 
“Only one?'' Schmidt asked abruptly. 

“Just the one," Hofmann assured him. 

A few days later, when Jacobs congratulated him on the sale, Hofmann 
gave him a wink. “Guess what? There's another one." 

The second one went to Brent Ashworth. 

At their next meeting, Hofmann told Jacobs about the sale to Ash- 
worth. “Too bad there aren't more," Jacobs lamented. 

“Guess what?" Hofmann said with another wink. “There's a third." 

Hofmann took the third one back to Schmidt. “Guess what? I found 
another ticket," he said in his dippiest, most disarming voice. When 
Schmidt started to boil, Hofmann explained, “This one doesn't have 
Emma's signature on it — it's slightly different." 

Schmidt wanted that one too. 



1 1 2 THE MORMON MURDERS 



If a document is of significance to the Church , do you give them the first 
chance to purchase it? 

If I think the Church should have it, I do. My experience is, however, 
that the Church usually doesn't pay as much as a private collector would 
for an item. There are exceptions. I know of the collecting interests of the 
Church historians, things which they are pursuing or are interested in. 
Those things they will pay top dollar for. But there have been a lot of 
things which I think are historically significant which I haven't even given 
the Church a crack at. A lot of historians, I'm sure, aren't happy with me 
for this, but I'm in this for the money. 

Are there any documents other than court records from Joseph's early 
money-digging days? 

There is other material that I know about, but I don’t want to say 
anything about what it is because I am actively seeking it. 



Of all the many rumors about Joseph Smith, none was 
more damning than the one about money digging. Not 
that money digging was rare in the early 1800s. It was, in fact, all the 
rage. As one Mormon historian put it, "While the Founding Fathers 
were busy putting the finishing touches on the nation, the rest of the 
country was busy poking around in their backyards for Captain Kidd's 
buried treasure." 

If Smith had merely gone out in his yard and dug a few holes, he would 
have been guilty of nothing more than gullibility. But the rumors were 
far worse than that. The rumors were that Smith, like his father, hired 
himself out to superstitious farmers and offered to search their fields with 
a divining rod or a looking glass or a seer stone, feeling for the vibrations 
of precious metals. That wasn’t just unethical — even by the standards of 
the time — it was illegal. There was even a rumor that Smith was brought 
to trial for money digging and confessed . 

This was serious stuff. If Smith did, in fact, engage in money digging 
as an ongoing enterprise, running around the farms of Palmyra with a seer 
stone looking for buried gold, it didn’t speak well for his story of finding 
gold plates buried in the land around Palmyra and "translating” them 




TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 1 1 3 



with the help of a seer stone. It all began to sound less like a divine 
revelation and more like a publicity stunt. And what did it make of the 
'Testimony" of the other witnesses to the gold plates, many of them 
members of Smith’s family? 

Mormon scholars shuddered at the thought. They agreed that if anyone 
could ever substantiate any of those dreadful rumors that Smith had 
actually confessed to money digging in a court of law, it would be catas- 
trophic for the faithful. Said one Mormon scholar: "If any evidence had 
been in existence that Joseph Smith had used a seer stone for fraud and 
deception, and especially had he made this confession in a court of law 
as early as 1826, or four years before the Book of Mormon was printed, 
and this confession was in a court record, it would have been impossible 
for him to have organized the restored Church." 

In fact, such a trial record had existed for some time, had even been 
reprinted in several nineteenth-century journals. But the Church claimed 
it was an early forgery, that no such trial had ever taken place. Then, on 
July 28, 1971, Wesley P. Walters, a Methodist minister from Marissa, 
Illinois, while rummaging around the records in the basement of the 
county jail in Norwich, New York, found two boxes of county bills from 
the early 1800s. There, in a bundle of bills from 1826, were the records 
of the court trial of "Joseph Smith, The Glass Looker" on March 20, 
1826. 

That left one Mormon scholar arguing desperately that the Joseph 
Smith in the 1826 trial record couldn’t be the Joseph Smith, and praying 
that no new evidence turned up to prove him wrong. 

Sometime between January 11 and January 14, 1983, Hofmann 
brought another document to Temple Square. This time, instead of 
stopping at Schmidt’s office in the Historical Department, he went 
straight to Elder Durham’s door. Durham took one look at the letter and 
marched Hofmann directly over to Gordon Hinckley’s office in the First 
Presidency building and placed the letter on Hinckley’s bare desk. It was 
addressed to Josiah Stowell and signed "Joseph Smith, Jr." The date: June 
18, 1825. If nothing else, it was the earliest known writing of the Prophet. 

As described by one associate, Hinckley was "no Mahatma Gandhi. No 
waves of spirituality emanated from his person. No one came away from 
meeting him claiming their faith had been renewed." He was, first, last, 
and always, a bureaucrat — cool, precise, difficult when necessary; diplo- 
matic, even charming, when appropriate; extremely effective at cutting 
through red tape and getting the job done. He was also notoriously shrewd 
about people. 



1 14 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Hofmann had every reason to expect that Hinckley, who had written 
a short history of the Church earlier in his career, would recognize the 
name Josiah Stowell. A wealthy fanner in Bainbridge, New York, Stowell 
was the customer whose dealings with “Joseph Smith, The Glass Looker” 
resulted in the complaints documented in the court records from 1826. 
Now Hofmann had found a letter, in the Prophet's own hand , proving 
that “Joseph Smith, The Glass Looker” and Joseph Smith, Prophet of 
God, were the same man. 

Hinckley took up the letter, sat back in his ample chair, and 
read. 

Dear Sir. 

My Father has shown me your letter informing him and me of your 
Success in locating the mine as you Suppose but we are of the oppinion that 
since you cannot ascertain any particulars you Should not dig more until you 
first discover if any valluables remain you know the treasure must be guarded 
by some clever spirit and if such is discovered so also is the treasure so do 
this take a hasel stick one yard long being new Cut and cleave it Just in the 
middle and lay it asunder on the mine so that both inner parts of the stick 
may look one right against the other one inch distant and if there is treasure 
after a while you shall see them draw and Join together again of themselves 
let me know how it is Since you were here I have almost decided to accept 
your offer. . . . 

“We would be interested in making a purchase,” Hinckley said when he 
finished. He told Hofmann to return the following Monday. At the 
second meeting, no one else was present. Just Hinckley and Hofmann. 
Hinckley pulled out a checkbook and wrote a check for $15,000 from a 
Church account. He handed the check to Hofmann and took the letter. 
“The Council of Twelve, and the First Presidency, and Elder Durham, 
and my secretary, Francis Gibbons, will be the only ones to know about 
this document,” he said, according to Hofmann's account. “Have you 
mentioned it to anyone?” 

“No,” Hofmann assured him. 

“Not even to your wife?” 

“No.” 

“Does anyone else know about it?” 

“No one else within the Church.” Hinckley knew, and he knew, and 
the original owner knew. That was it. 

“Where did you get it?” 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 1 1 5 



“From an Eastern source.” Hofmann assured him that it had been 
authenticated by an autograph expert in New York. 

“Can you get me a copy of the authentication?” 

a f 

1 can. 

And the deal was done. 

No press conference, no picture with the Prophet, no headlines, no 
articles, no interviews this time. For the 1829 letter by Joseph Smith’s 
mother , there had been official proclamations — “The earliest known 
dated document” — and solemn, long-winded testimonials — “The vindi- 
cation of Joseph Smith’s work.” But for this much earlier statement from 
the Prophet himself, nothing. 

When Hofmann came out of the First Presidency building and rendez- 
voused with Lyn Jacobs across the street in the Crossroads Mall, he was 
smiling. He told Jacobs that Hinckley’s parting words were: “This is one 
document that will never see the light of day.” 

Hofmann’s Sunstone interview concluded with several questions about his 
“testimony.” 

Do you consider yourself an active Latter-day Saint? 

Yes. I’m an eighth-generation Mormon, and my mother is a stake 
Relief Society president right now. 

Has your profession affected your beliefs at all? 

I guess I am a lot more calloused than I was. But generally I just don’t 
worry about some things. I don’t have to figure everything out, have an 
explanation for everything. I can just say, “Well, that’s the way it is.” 

Do you look for specific documents to substantiate Mormon historical 
claims? 

You can’t really do that; you have to take what you can find. I don’t 
think documents really change anyone’s mind anyway. For example, the 
Anthon Transcript. The anti-Mormons used it for their purposes and the 
Mormons used it for theirs. The same with the Lucy letter. I think most 
people are a little like me. You have your beliefs and you don’t really let 
things change them too much. 

If you found a document that was potentially embarrassing to the 
Church , , would you consider hiding or destroying it? 

Oh, no. That gets into a matter of ethics. It’s not my role to burn a 
document just because I don’t like what it says — not to mention that it’s 
not a very profitable thing to do in the business world. The closest I’ve 



1 16 THE MORMON MURDERS 



come was the Joseph Smith III blessing which shook up a few people in 
the Church. It surprised me a bit that the Church didn't buy it up quick 
and stash it away somewhere, but I guess the Historical Department is 
trying to be more objective and get away from that sort of thing. 



Dawn Tracy believed that too — until Thursday, May 19, 
1983. 

That was the day Tracy, then a reporter for the Provo Daily Herald \ 
heard a rumor from a B.Y.U. professor that liberal Mormon writers and 
intellectuals were being called in by their bishops. Like most newspaper 
writers in Utah, Tracy, a Mormon herself — but one who had questions 
about the way her Church was being run — had always had to contend 
with its vast power. Not that the Church owned the Daily Herald. It 
didn't need to. The paper served a readership in Utah County, the county 
with the highest percentage of active Mormons in the state. The mayor 
of Salt Lake City once called it the most conservative county in the most 
conservative state in the nation. If anything, the readership was more 
conservative and more devoutly Mormon than the readership of the 
Church-owned Deseret News up in Salt Lake. So the Daily Herald tended 
to steer clear of the Church. Sure, there were occasional little articles 
about a new bishop or a Church-related barbecue, but where was the real 
news, Tracy wondered. 

This was one rumor she wasn't going to let get away. She grabbed her 
copies of Sunstone and Dialogue , the two liberal reviews, made a list of 
the authors, and started dialing. “Hi, I'm Dawn Tracy from the Daily 
Herald . Have you been quizzed by your bishop on your testimony?" she 
asked, using the Mormon shorthand. Every good Mormon is supposed to 
have a testimony, a heartfelt belief that the Book of Mormon is “true," 
that Joseph did translate it from golden plates, and that the LDS Church 
is the only true Church. If your faith wanes, you lose your testimony. 
From an early age, children are warned that “losing your testimony" is 
a fate worse than death. Twice a year, bishops call in ward members to 
review, along with the record of their tithing, the status of their testimo- 
nies. Without a testimony, you can't get a Temple recommend, and 
without a Temple recommend, you can't get into the Celestial Kingdom. 




TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 1 17 

Tracy called twenty-five or thirty writers, from California to Vir- 
ginia, and all of their stories sounded strikingly similar. Clearly the 
local officials were acting on orders from higher up. Tracy stayed at her 
word processor until past midnight making more calls and writing the 
story for the next day's edition, but no amount of arguing could con- 
vince her editors to run with it. Then, an hour before the Sunday edi- 
tion went to press, they decided that the story was too big to sit on 
and gave her the go-ahead. 

Latter-day Saint stake presidents and bishops are 
warning Mormon writers who publish intellectual ma- 
terial to write faith-promoting stories or their church 
membership will be in jeopardy. 

The writers say the stake presidents and bishops are 
acting under orders from high-ranking general au- 
thorities, a charge LDS officials neither confirm nor 
deny. 

That was only the beginning of the story. Before long, it was on the UPI 
wire and a reporter from the New York Times was burning up the phone 
line to Provo. Pieces began to fall into place as the first article scared up 
more stories from a stunned community. Tracy was no longer dealing with 
a few isolated incidents. This was much bigger than that. The first word 
that came to mind was “crackdown." 

It had begun in February when university officials banned the liberal 
newspaper Seventh East Press for “offend [ing] our sponsor, which is the 
LDS Church." After the newspaper folded, many of its writers were called 
in for “personal interviews" by their bishops and told they were “on the 
road to apostasy." One was forced to resign from a job with the Church. 
The editor of another paper, B YU Today , was dismissed. Then came the 
warnings to writers and historians off-campus who had written for liberal 
magazines and newspapers. Along the way, at least three professors at 
B.Y.U. were swept into the net, called in by Church officials and ques- 
tioned on their writings. 

Devout Mormons didn't know whom to be angrier at: the writers and 
professors for complaining, or Dawn Tracy for reporting their complaints. 
Richard Cracroft, dean of the College of Humanities at B.Y.U. , lectured 
the malcontents: “If this is what the Brethren [the Prophet and his 
Apostles] want, then good Latter-day Saints must say it is appropriate. 
This may be difficult for scholars, but obedience is an important concept 



1 18 THE MORMON MURDERS 



of the Mormon Church/' Dr. Keith Perkins, chairman of the Church 
History and Doctrine Department, couldn't understand why all scholars 
didn't share his view: “I want to write what the Lord wants written. I 
don't want to offend the Lord." 

But in Provo and Salt Lake City and Logan, all along the Wasatch 
Range, a second word was being whispered more and more frequently as 
the chilling details piled up. Tracy heard it for the first time over the 
phone from J. D. Williams, a highly respected Mormon professor at the 
University of Utah: “It's an inquisition." 

Dawn Tracy didn't know it at the time, but the inquisition had begun long 
before. 

Almost from the day in 1972 when Leonard Arrington took over as 
Church Historian and ushered in the so-called Camelot of Mormon 
history, the Brethren didn’t like it. 

Ezra Taft Benson, the former Secretary of Agriculture in the Eisen- 
hower Administration and the Prophet-in-waiting, railed against “human- 
istic philosophy" and “contextual history." Ever since seeing the phrase 
“communal living" used to describe early Mormons, he had suspected the 
Historical Department was a hotbed of communists anyway. (Benson had 
once proclaimed, much to the embarrassment of his colleagues, that a 
good Mormon, “if he is to follow the Gospel, cannot also be a liberal 
Democrat." His son, Reed, had once served as public relations director 
for the John Birch Society.) 

The fact that Benson would soon replace the ailing Spencer Kimball 
as Prophet did not augur well for the historians. 

Elder Boyd Packer was every bit as distrustful as Benson, but less 
discriminating. He didn't like intellectuals of any stripe. In fact, he didn't 
even like ideas if they weren't his own. “Are you here to lobby or to 
listen?" he would demand of people who dared disagree with him. “Be- 
cause if you're here to lobby, you can leave. If you're here to listen, you 
may have an audience." 

There were some among the Church leadership who didn't care that 
much about the religious implications of the historical digging. To 
them the mission of the Church was to lay down a moral regimen for 
people, lead the political effort against pornography and other social ills 
(the ERA, for example), and promote a comfortable group identity 
that could be glamorized on the pages of the Reader's Digest and in 
television ads. They were businessmen at heart. Any talk of religion — 
from the historians or the anti-historians — made them uncomfortable, 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 1 19 

and they wished that people wouldn't bother themselves with such 
questions. 

But there was one thing that everybody cared about: the bottom line. 
More than politics or theology, it was the bottom line that finally turned 
pragmatists like Hinckley, who had been reading almost everything that 
came out of the Historical Department, against Arrington's Camelot. 

The Mormon Church runs the most active and successful missionary 
program of any denomination in the world. In 1981, a Church press 
release boasted, “In an era of increasing disinterest [sic] in organized 
religion, someone joins the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 
every two minutes and thirty seconds.” One insider calls the missionary 
effort “the driving force of the contemporary Church.” 

And it didn't take a genius to know that what the historians were 
uncovering about money digging and polygamy didn't exactly lend itself 
to the all-important missionary effort. In fact, the reports were coming 
back from the field. These newspaper articles about Mormonism's color- 
ful, cultish past were killing them in Polynesia. 

In 1976 Hinckley appointed his old missionary buddy, G. Homer Dur- 
ham, to rein in Arrington and his band of historians. Hinckley was smart 
enough P.R.-wise to know that mass executions in the Historical Depart- 
ment would only bring down the wrath of the national media. He had a 
better plan. 

Durham was just the man for the job. When he wasn't in the field 
congratulating wealthy stakes for being wealthy and therefore blessed, he 
was in the First Presidency building, clawing his way up through the 
dense, sanctimonious jungle of the Church hierarchy. By general agree- 
ment, there had not been a more ambitious, more arrogant, more disagree- 
able, or more conniving General Authority since the wild days of Parley 
P. Pratt, an early Apostle who decided to take on a “plural” wife who was 
already married, adding bigamy to polygamy, and so enraging his new 
bride's first husband that he hunted Pratt down and sent him prematurely 
to the Celestial Kingdom. 

Although considered flexible and kindly during his terms as Commis- 
sioner of Education in Arizona and president of Arizona State Univer- 
sity, Durham had been transformed by the fierce competitiveness of 
the Church's inner circle into a Mormon Machiavelli. The closest he 
ever ventured to humility was a “holy gaze” with which he liked to 
receive visitors, especially groups of schoolchildren. When asked to give 
a brief speech at a devotional, he would invariably spend thirty minutes 
talking about himself and his accomplishments. Staff members down 



120 THE MORMON MURDERS 



to secretaries and mail clerks, considered him “slimy,” “mean,” 
and “sneaky.” Even the benign Arrington referred to him as “Pha- 
raoh.” 

Durham wasted none of his charm on the Historical Department. 
He demoted Arrington from Church Historian to head of the Church's 
Historical Department. He cut the department's budget and staff. New 
publishing projects were held up indefinitely waiting for approval “from 
higher up” that never came. Writers were summarily cut off from 
Church-controlled historical records. A spy on the librarian's staff un- 
derlined “controversial passages” and sent copies to the General Au- 
thorities. 

Slowly, out of the public eye, Camelot was dismantled. Durham or- 
dered that all publications be submitted to the Church Correlation Com- 
mittee. Deseret Book (whose president, Lowell Durham, was G. Homer's 
nephew) withdrew the contract to publish the sixteen-volume history of 
the Church. Arrington’s book for non-Mormons was allowed to proceed 
(it was under contract to a non-Mormon New York publisher). But the 
corresponding history for Mormons was subjected to heavy editorial pres- 
sure and then, despite its surprising commercial success, eased out of 
print. 

On July 2, 1980, the Salt Lake Tribune announced the coup de grace: 
“The history research division of the Mormon church's historical depart- 
ment will move to Brigham Young University. . . .” To demonstrate its 
commitment to history, the Church had decided to create a new Joseph 
Fielding Smith Institute for Church History based, appropriately enough, 
at the Church university. And who more appropriate to head this new 
institute than Dr. Leonard J. Arrington, distinguished church historian — 
now lower case. The crucial news was buried further down in the press 
release: “The department's library and archives and arts and sites division 
will remain at the church's Salt Lake City headquarters, said church 
President Spencer W. Kimball. ...” In other words, if you can’t take the 
documents away from the historians, take the historians away from the 
documents. At B.Y.U., they would still be within the fold — Church 
employees — but out of harm’s way. 

It was a brilliant stroke, another public relations coup: a knockout 
punch delivered in a good-news press release. And the author, of course, 
was Gordon Hinckley. 

For those historians who might have missed the subtle message of 
Hinckley's maneuver, Elder Boyd Packer spelled out the Church's new 
attitude in a speech on August 22, 1981. 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 121 

1 have conic to believe that it is the tendency for many members of the 
Church who spend a great deal of time in academic research to begin to 
judge the Church, its doctrine, organization, and leadership, present and 
past, by the principles of their own profession. ... In my mind it ought to 
be the other way around. . . . 

There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to 
want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or no. 

Some things that are true are not very useful. ... Be careful that you build 
faith rather than destroy it . . . 

For the truly thickskulled who still didn’t get the message, Packer bran- 
dished the big gun. 

A destroyer of faith — particularly one within the Church, and more 
particularly one who is employed specifically to build faith — places himself 
in great spiritual jeopardy. He is serving the wrong master and unless he 
repents, he will not be among the faithful in the eternities. ... In the 
Church we are not neutral. We are one-sided. There is a war going on, and 
we are engaged in it. . . . [Tjhere is a limit to the patience of the Lord with 
respect to those who are under convenant to bless and protect His Church 
and kingdom upon the earth but do not do it. 

In 1982, Arrington was dismissed from his position in the Church Histori- 
cal Department. His replacement: G Homer Durham. 

With their own house in order, the General Authorities set out to bring 
the rest of the flock to heel. 



Brent Metcalfe couldn't imagine what the meeting was 
for. Sure, once or twice, he had slipped off to the men's 
room without permission. But did they have to make a federal case out 
of it? How typical of the FBI types in Church Security. A simple repri- 
mand wasn't enough. They had to call a meeting in the personnel rep's 
office. 

But the meeting wasn't about trips to the men's room. As soon as 
Metcalfe sat down, his boss, Ron Francis, began reading from a piece of 




122 THE MORMON MURDERS 



paper: You are ordered not to associate any further with groups that 
exhibit "anti-Church attitudes/’ Something like that. 

When Francis was done, Metcalfe asked to see the paper. 

"You can’t,” said Francis. 

Metcalfe, a soft-spoken, dark-haired, eager-looking young man, wasn’t 
sure he understood what was happening. He had written some articles six 
months before for the Seventh East Press and had recently been asked to 
contribute to Sunstone. But not even Francis could consider either one 
of those publications subversive — could he? 

Francis continued: "You are to sever yourself from involvement with 
people, groups, or publications that teach doctrines, privately or publicly, 
which are contrary to those of the Prophet.” Even at fifty, Francis was 
six feet of military cliches and proud of it. He always said, in a way that 
was simultaneously menacing and incoherent, there was nothing he 
wouldn’t do for his job. "Furthermore, you are not to write, publish, speak 
publicly, debate, etc. on controversial Church-related topics, and you are 
prohibited from serving on boards, committees, staffs, etc. of any contro- 
versial organizations.” 

Metcalfe was tempted to invoke the name of his father, who was, after 
all, the managing director of the Temple Department, the man who 
supervised Temples all around the world. But it was clear these men 
already knew who his father was — and didn’t care. Which meant that this 
meeting had been authorized very, very high up. 

"Your employment will be subject to termination if you don’t cease 
these activities immediately.” 

"My employment means a great deal to me,” Metcalfe said, thinking 
immediately of his wife, Jill, and their two-year-old daughter, Michala. "I 
am willing to do what you want.” He agreed to the terms that were set 
and was placed on thirty days’ probation. 

The next day, he told his editors at Sunstone that he would no longer 
be available as a writer. Two days later, he resigned from the Seventh East 
Press and asked the editor to remove his name from the masthead. Then 
he went to the personnel rep’s office to report what he had done. 

Metcalfe heard nothing more until March 10, the last day of his 
probation. On that day, he was summoned to a meeting with Francis and 
the head of Church Security, Martell Bird. The presence of the martinet 
Bird omened ill. The two men had butted heads a year before when Bird 
instructed Metcalfe to cease writing rebuttals to anti-Mormon groups in 
New Zealand, Metcalfe’s native country and the site of his mission. 
Apparently, higher-ups thought his "defenses” of the Church were doing 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 1 23 



more damage than the critics’ attacks. “You are not to give firesides or 
speak publicly responding to anti-Mormons/’ Bird had commanded. At 
the time, Metcalfe had insisted that he was just a seeker after truth whose 
only wish was to “pursue historical research with a great deal of honesty 
and to let history lead me rather than me to lead history." Well, Martell 
Bird wasn’t buying any of that doubletalk. 

Ron Francis acted as spokesman for the group: “Brother Bird and I are 
all very pleased with your total compliance with the rules and guidelines 
given to you. And with the openness and honesty expressed during our 
previous meeting on February 11. With the completion of this probation, 
all is forgotten. This probationary period will in no way stay in your record 
or affect your pay increases or job promotions." 

That night, for the first time in a month, Metcalfe slept soundly. 

But three weeks later, he was summoned to the office of Russ Homer, 
the managing director of Personnel. 

“The Brethren have told us to call you in," Homer began. “They have 
reason to believe that you have violated your probation. They feel an 
inquisition is necessary." 

Metcalfe went a little breathless at the sound of the word. He consid- 
ered himself a historian. How could they use that word so lightly? Did 
Homer realize what he was saying? 

In fact, Homer was oblivious to anything other than the task at hand. 
“They’ve asked us to determine," he continued, “if your historical re- 
search and scriptural studies are such as to warrant your termination." 

Inquisition was the right word. 

Once the questioning began, it was fast and furious. “What do you 
research?" “How?" “Why?" “Have people assisted you?" “Who?" 

There were questions about his friends and associates. “Who are they?" 
“What are their names?" 

The questions were not based on any concrete information, but instead 
fired randomly in the hopes of finding something, anything, to show that 
he had violated his probation. 

“How often do you go to the Historical Department?" 

“My visits to the Historical Library are sporadic." 

“How much time do you spend there?" 

“Sometimes I will spend as much as four to five hours a week studying 
there." 

“Have you had any further involvement with Sunstone ?" 

“No. But I did drop by to see if their new magazine had been pub- 
lished." 



124 THE MORMON MURDERS 



“You shouldn’t even be reading these magazines. You want to avoid 
the very appearance of evil.” 

Metcalfe began to wonder what country he was in, let alone what 
Church he belonged to. His back stiffened. “If you’re telling me what I 
can and cannot read,” he said, “then something is very wrong, and you’ll 
have my resignation tomorrow.” 

Utter silence. He realized he had expected them to say, “Oh, no, no, 
that’s not what we’re telling you.” They didn’t. 

Homer, apparently frustrated by the fruitlessness of the enterprise, 
began reading from a list of prepared questions. 

“Do you have a Temple recommend?” 

“Yes.” 

Metcalfe could see immediately where this was headed. In order to 
have a Temple recommend, you must pledge that you have “sustained the 
General Authorities” — meaning that you haven’t questioned the Church 
leaders in any troublesome way. If they couldn’t get him for something 
substantive, they would get him for perjury. 

“Now, what books have you been reading in the Historical Department 
during the last week?” 

Metcalfe listed each book he had read. 

“Were any old books used in your studies?” 

This was the crux. In Homer’s calculus, old books apparently meant 
unedited books, “uncorrelated” books, dangerous books. When somebody 
used old books they were rummaging too far back into the true history 
of the Church. Terror of the past was palpable in Homer’s voice. 

“Your research is what is known as 'delving into the mysteries,’ ” 
Homer said. 

“I didn’t realize that researching Church history was considered that 

way.” 

“It is. The Brethren feel it is harmful to the Church.” 

With that, the inquisition came to an abrupt end. 

Until April 8, when Metcalfe was again summoned to the Personnel 
office. 

“You are being terminated from Church employment,” Ron Francis 
informed him. 

It wasn’t really a surprise. A shock, but not a surprise. 

“What are the grounds for the termination?” Metcalfe asked, strug- 
gling to remain composed. 

There was no answer. 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 1 25 



“What are the grounds for the termination?” 

Again, no answer. 

He asked one last time. “What are the grounds for the termination?” 
Finally someone spoke up. “You are being terminated because you 
didn't conform to the spirit of the things discussed in our previous meet- 
ings.” 

That was a lie, Metcalfe was certain, and he was suddenly indignant. 
“1 fulfilled every requirement you asked of me.” 

“You conformed to the letter of the things that were previously dis- 
cussed, but not the spirit.” 

“Give me specific examples of my neglect in conforming to the spirit.” 
Long pause. Much discomfort and many sidelong looks. Finally, 
weakly: “Your support for the General Authorities is questionable.” 

On May 16, 1983, Brent wrote President Gordon Hinckley a seven-page 
letter, describing his ordeal in detail and asking for his help. It concluded: 

1 cannot emphasize too emphatically that in all the detailed researching and 
studying that I have done, nothing can approach the detrimental effect on 
the spiritual well being of my family and I resulting from the events de- 
scribed herein. ... As of this date, May 16, 1983, 1 remain unemployed. 

May 16 was his birthday. 

Hinckley never responded. But within a month, Metcalfe was offered a 
job by Steve Christensen at CFS. Hinckley, it was said, didn't like loose 
ends. 



To Lyn Jacobs, who had moved to Cambridge, Massachu- 
setts, in the fall of 1984 to begin a divinity degree at Har- 
vard, Mark Hofmann's soprano on the other end of the line sounded like 
a voice from another world. It reminded him again how far the Harvard 
Divinity School was from the LDS Church, how far Harvard Square was 
from Temple Square. One thing was the same, though. His first-semester 
study of early Christian history had reconfirmed for him that much of 




126 THE MORMON MURDERS 



what Christians now believe, like much of what Mormons now believe, 
was imposed on their religion long after its founder died. 

The voice sounded excited — very unusual for the cool, unflappable 
Hofmann. Something was up. 

When Jacobs left that fall, Hofmann asked him to be on the lookout 
for stampless covers — letters that were mailed prior to 1850, before post- 
age stamps were introduced, and therefore bore only the imprint of the 
post office where they were mailed, the date, and the cost of mailing, 
which varied depending on the number of pages and how far the letter 
was going. Hofmann was particularly interested in any stampless covers 
coming out of Palmyra, New York. “You know, not everybody back East 
knows who Joseph Smith is,” he said with his usual edge of sarcasm. 
“Something important might have gone unnoticed.” 

In his first hectic months of school, Jacobs wasn’t able to do any 
looking, but he did give Hofmann a few names of dealers who might help 
him find something. 

That was the last Jacobs had heard from him until this day. Just by the 
sound of his voice, it was clear that he had contacted those dealers and 
had found something — something big. 

Hofmann described an “incredible” find, a letter dated 1830, written 
by Martin Harris, the same farmer and Smith intimate who had taken the 
Anthon Transcript to New York for verification. Hofmann didn’t have to 
go any further. Harris’s name was enough to make it a spectacular discov- 
ery even if it was only a laundry list. But this was much more than that. 
This was nothing less than Harris s version of the finding of the gold plates. 
“Get a load of this,” Hofmann clucked as he began to read: 

. . Joseph often sees Spirits here with great kettles of coin money it was 
Spirits who brought up rock because Joseph made no attempt on their 
money 1 latter dream I converse with spirits which let me count their 
money when I awake 1 have in my hand a dollar coin which 1 take for a 
sign. . . . 

Jacobs’s first thought, as he listened to the long document, was, “1 can’t 
believe it, Mark’s done it again.” His second thought was, “I’ll never see 
a dime.” He should have asked for some kind of agreement when he 
provided Hofmann with the names of those dealers, he thought. Now it 
was too late. 

He tuned out on the rest of the letter. 

Michael Marquardt, however, was all ears when Hofmann called him 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 1 27 

in late November. He scribbled notes frantically as Hofmann read tanta- 
lizing excerpts: 

To VV. VV. Phelps, postmarked Palmyra, October 23rd, 1830 in 

the fall of the year 1827 I hear Joseph found a gold bible 1 take Joseph aside 
& he says it is true 1 found it 4 years ago with my stone but only just got 
it because of the enchantment the old spirit come to me 3 times in the same 
dream & says dig up the gold but when I take it up the next morning the 
spirit transfigured himself from a white salamander in the bottom of the 
hole & struck me 3 times. . . . Joseph found some giant silver specticles with 
the plates he puts them in a old hat & in the darkness reads the words & 
in this way it is all translated & written down. . . . 

Something had to be wrong, Marquardt thought. This couldn't be the 
story of the golden plates. This story didn't sound Mormon at all. It didn't 
even sound Christian. There was no vision of God, no mention of Christ. 
Where was the kindly Angel Moroni who, as all Mormon children learn, 
showed Joseph where to dig? This story sounded more like a Grimms' fairy 
tale than a Sunday-school lesson: kettles of money guarded by spirits, seer 
stones, enchanted spells, magic “specticles," ghostly visitations. And in- 
stead of a benevolent angel, a cantankerous and tricky “old spirit” who 
transforms himself into a white salamander ! 

This was just the link that was needed to connect Joseph Smith's early 
involvement in money digging and folk magic, proved by the Glass Looker 
trial records, with the folk magic at the core of the Book of Mormon. No 
longer able to deny Smith's connection to money digging and magic, the 
Church had tried to palm it off as “youthful indiscretion," unrelated to 
his later religious activities. This new letter showing that Smith had never 
abandoned his interest in the occult blew a gaping hole in that explana- 
tion. 

Marquardt couldn’t dial the Tanners' number fast enough. 

“You won’t believe this one," he exulted in his bizarre, singsong voice. 
“A letter has been found, a letter from Martin Harris, and it says the 
money-digging thing and it refers to this old spirit." 

“Doesn't it mention an angel?" Jerald Tanner asked, remembering 
Fawn Brodie's theory that Joseph Smith's “angel story" evolved from his 
illegal money-digging activities. 

“Not a word," reported Marquardt. 

“When was it dated?" 

“Eighteen-thirty." 



128 THE MORMON MURDERS 



“Boy, that's kind of late," said Tanner. Although fascinated by Smith’s 
early involvement with folk magic (he had written a book on the subject), 
Tanner was by nature a suspicious man, whether he liked what he heard 
or not. “It seems like the story would have evolved more by then. Are you 
sure it doesn't mention an angel at all?" 

“No. Nothing about an angel. Just this old spirit who transforms him- 
self into a white salamander.” 

There was a pause on the other end as Jerald assessed the startling news. 
“That's amazing, ” he finally said — a rave from the undemonstrative Je- 
rald Tanner. “Quite a sensational find.” 

At ten in the morning, December 1 1 , Marquardt arrived at Hofmann's 
house, questions swarming in his mind. Was the letter in Harris's hand- 
writing? Were there examples against which to compare it? What did the 
rest of the letter say? Where did Mark get it? From the Phelps family? 
Where was it postmarked? Did it have the correct postage? 

The meeting lasted for five hours. Hofmann didn't have the document 
itself, only a typescript and a photocopy. The original was still in the 
seller's hands. The price was $18,000. With a check already made out, 
Hofmann was ready to jump on the next plane to Boston. But before he 
did, he wanted Marquardt’s advice on “getting the letter out,” i.e., mak- 
ing it public. 

“Who should 1 leak it to?” Hofmann wondered aloud. “The New York 
Times? L. A. Times? Newsweek? Time?” The list of names sent him into 
a reverie. 

“It's up to you,” said Marquardt, his mind on whether the typescript 
was accurate. 

“You know the Church isn't going to like this,” Hofmann said at one 
point. “How do you think we could soften the blow?” It was an awkward 
question for Marquardt. He was used to bird-dogging the Church and 
rushing into print whatever he could get his hands on. Why was Hofmann 
talking to him , one of the Church's archenemies, about “softening the 
blow”? 

Marquardt suggested accentuating the positive. “Say something about 
the fact that Harris was a witness to the Book of Mormon, ” he suggested 
lamely. “Emphasize the faith-promoting aspects of it.” 

“What faith-promoting aspects?” Hofmann looked surprised. 

“It confirms the Anthon Transcript.” 

Hofmann smiled his strange smile. 

When Marquardt asked where he had found the document, Hofmann 
talked elusively about “a dealer back East.” Surely Marquardt understood, 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 129 



he couldn't reveal the name. But at one point in the conversation, some- 
thing very curious happened. After flourishing the envelope that the copy 
had supposedly come in, he turned it face down on his desk within easy 
reach of Marquardt and abruptly left the room. Marquardt looked at it 
for a long time, turning it over in his mind, then decided he "couldn't 
afford to be caught looking at it." 

If he had looked at it, he would have seen Lyn Jacobs's address. 

Despite all his protests, Marquardt realized, Hofmann hoped that he 
would see the letter in tomorrow's New York Times. He hadn't been 
giving Hofmann advice on how he should leak it, Hofmann had been 
giving him tips on how he should leak it. After all, hadn't Marquardt 
leaked the inscription on the Joseph Smith III blessing, the letter from 
Joseph Smith making his son heir to the Church? Soon after Hofmann 
showed it to him, it appeared in a pamphlet published by the Tanners. 
"Boy, the Church was sure upset that that got out," Hofmann said to him 
afterward, with everything but a wink and a nod. 

What Marquardt didn't realize was that Hofmann wanted to make sure 
that when the letter did leak, the name attached to it was Lyn Jacobs, not 
Mark Hofmann. 

That night Hofmann called Jacobs in Cambridge. "I just wanted to 
reassure you," he said. "You had a part in finding the letter, you should 
have a share in the profits." Jacobs was surprised and thrilled. 

Two days later, Hofmann called Marquardt in a tiff. “Someone has 
leaked," he said in the voice of a playground bully. Even worse, the leak 
had gotten back to the seller and, for a while, it looked like the deal was 
off. But, fortunately, Hofmann had calmed him down and saved the 
sale. 

When Lyn Jacobs arrived home for Christmas vacation on December 16, 
he saw for the first time the document that, according to Hofmann, he, 
Jacobs, had discovered. To appreciative eyes, it was an exquisitely fragile 
fragment of history: a single folded sheet of foolscap, worn and creased 
and penned in faded brown ink. Hinckley's going to want this, Jacobs 
thought, the adding machine starting up again. If there was ever a docu- 
ment that the Church would want off the streets and safely locked away 
in The Vault, this was it. Jacobs felt a twinge of sadness. It really was too 
bad: holographic documents weren't his passion, but he had to admit, it 
was a beautiful piece of work. Hofmann, too, seemed proud of it in a 
strange way — which was one reason his request came as such a surprise. 

"I want you to do the selling." 



130 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Jacobs was shocked. He wanted to know why. 

“I don't want the publicity/' Hofmann said. “There have been some 
threats on my family." 

Together they decided what to ask for it. Jacobs took the high road, 
Mark the low. They never came any closer than “anywhere between 
$25,000 and $60,000." Jacobs thought Mark was surprisingly casual about 
price — the only thing he seemed to care about was that his name be kept 
out of the sale. 

In early January, Jacobs took the letter into Donald Schmidt in the 
Church archives. When Schmidt heard the asking price, he said exactly 
what Jacobs knew he would: “You know I'm not able to make decisions 
in that price range." 

Jacobs liked this act. With this bombshell under his arm, people paid 
attention to him. They treated him differently. He wasn't just a local 
eccentric whom people tolerated. He got respect. “That's okay," he told 
Schmidt with a toss of his shiny ringlets. He would take it up with 
Hinckley. 

It was a memorable encounter. The hushed, paneled rooms of the First 
Presidency had not often, if ever, been a backdrop for such high-camp 
theater. From the moment Jacobs bounced into Hinckley's softly lighted, 
minimally decorated office in baggy Italian pants and purple-and-black 
shirt — he liked to wear dark colors with his dark hair — Hinckley moved 
about like a man caught in a freezer. 

There were a few words of introduction and then an awkward pause. 
“Are you a member of the Church?" Hinckley asked, trying, apparently, 
to establish Jacobs's pliancy. “I understand that you were a missionary in 
the Canadian mission." 

Hinckley had obviously done his homework. But it wouldn't work: the 
first few times Jacobs had sold items to the Church archives, Schmidt had 
tried to make him feel that, as a member of the Church, he should simply 
“give the stuff up." It hadn't worked then, and it wouldn't work now. 

“Do you know Mark Hofmann?" Hinckley asked. 

“Yes, I do." 

Another awkward pause, then Hinckley* his hands clasped in front of 
him, knuckles white, said quietly, “The letter, the letter." But when 
Jacobs finally handed it to him, he read it without the slightest sign of 
emotion. He could have been reading an insurance policy. 

When he finished, he slid the letter onto his slick, empty desktop and 
clasped his hands together. 

“Well, what should we do about it?" he finally asked, without a trace 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 131 

of emotion in his voice. Another day, another problem. Running a church 
was much like running a railroad. 

If that was supposed to be a philosophical question, Jacobs wasn't going 
to pay any attention to it. He had only one thing on his mind, and he 
answered the question he wanted to hear. 

“What I'd like is one of the coins that Brigham Young minted/' 
Without Hofmann there to control him, Jacobs's greed was getting the 
better of him. Those coins — $40 and $20 Mormon gold pieces — were 
worth somewhere between $25,000 and $100,000. The warm-up with 
Schmidt had made him feel invincible. 

For the first time, Hinckley showed an emotion: a shadow of disgust 
passed over his benign, bureaucratic face. He didn't look astonished at the 
high price, just perturbed that anyone would demand it. Obviously, he, 
too, knew' how much those gold pieces were worth. “That's a little high," 
he said very slowly, very much in control. 

Jacobs burst into justifications. “Look, if I sell the coin, I'll have to pay 
almost 50 percent, you know, capital-gains tax. So you have to understand 
that the real profit on this is only half." Hinckley didn't look as if he 
appreciated the lesson in tax accounting. “Besides," added Jacobs, “you’ve 
got two sets." 

“No way," Hinckley said firmly. “We have that as an invest- 
ment." 

“Okay," Jacobs relented, too quickly. “Good-bye to that one. Okay, I 
want a Book of Commandments. " 

Hinckley looked at Jacobs suspiciously. There was only one question on 
Hinckley's mind, it seemed, and it had little to do with price: Could this 
man be trusted to keep quiet about the contents of the document and 
about the Church's involvement? 

At the first opportunity, Hinckley broke in. Jacobs read the look on 
his face as “I don't want this document unless you make it a dona- 
tion." The meeting was not going well. “Well," Hinckley began por- 
tentously. “I don’t really think we can do any business here. I'm not 
sure the Church would be interested in acquiring the letter at this 
time." 

Trying to stay in control of the negotiations, while pumping new life 
into them, Jacobs said, “The other person we might offer the letter to is 
Brent Ashworth, since he's bought so many documents before." Jacobs 
didn't really believe that. He knew that Ashworth collected faith-promot - 
ing documents. This wasn't even close. 

“Well, that might be a good idea," Hinckley said, to Jacobs's surprise. 



132 THE MORMON MURDERS 



“Brent might not be averse to donating it to us/' That wasn’t any more 
likely than Ashworth’s buying it in the first place. 

Then Hinckley stood up: “This meeting is over.” 

Jacobs was stunned. Didn’t Hinckley realize how explosive this letter 
was? Could he be so dense? Was he willing to dismiss the only chance 
the Church would have to bury this bombshell? 

In fact, Hinckley wasn’t dense, nor was he dismissing anything, espe- 
cially not this bombshell. 



Lyn Jacobs didn’t know what had gone wrong. 

“Well, Mark, I mean, you know, what can I say? No 
gold coin, no Book of Commandments. What are we going to do 
now?” 

Hofmann sat on the other side of the booth, paying more attention 
to his hamburger than to Jacobs’s excuses. “You asked for too much,” 
he said absently, thinking that Jacobs had been the wrong man for the 
job all along. “It’ll be a neat experiment,” he had told himself at the 
time. The idea of putting Jacobs together with Hinckley had appealed 
to his sense of humor. Now he realized it was a mistake. How could 
Hinckley trust someone like Jacobs to keep the deal a secret? He was 
hardly the picture of a faithful, do-as-you’re-told Mormon. 

But Hofmann had other problems. He was still brooding over his 
meeting with Brent Ashworth earlier that day. 

“It’s selling for $50,000,” he had told Ashworth. “The Church wants to 
buy it.” 

Ashworth read the long typescript of the letter from Martin Harris. In 
all the years the two men had been dealing, Hofmann had always shown 
him originals. 

“Lyn has the original,” Hofmann anticipated. “But we want to offer 
it to you first.” 

Ashworth shook his head. “Well, that’s great, because I don’t want it. 
It’s obviously a non-faith-promoting document, and I am buying faith- 
promoting documents.” 

Hofmann tried a different tack. “It’s a very major document,” he said, 




TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 133 



leading to Ashworth’s taste for publicity. “Time magazine says they may 
be interested in doing a story on it.” 

“Well, 1 hope not,” Ashworth said, laughing. “I mean the Church 
doesn’t need that kind of publicity. 

“Besides,” he added. “I think it’s a fake.” 

Hofmann looked intrigued. “You think so?” 

Ashworth had recently reread Mormonism Unvailed , a famous early 
attack on the Church, and there were just too many similarities between 
the “old toad jumping out of the box” in E. D. Howe’s 1834 account and 
this silly white salamander. “It’s probably a very early forgery,” Ashworth 
said, “but I think it’s a forgery.” 

Hofmann jumped in. “Dean Jessee’s seen this already. Lyn’s shown it 
to Dean, and Dean has authenticated it. He spent a lot of time on it. 
There may be some similarities, but this has been authenticated. It’s 
gonna be in Time. ” 

“Personally, 1 think it’s a fake,” Ashworth repeated, more softly this 
time. “But you know, I could be wrong.” 

“The Church wants to buy it,” Hofmann pressed. 

“Well, they really ought to have it. Because they ought to be the ones 
to own that letter. That’s something that no collector should be stuck with 
having to explain or mess with.” 

Not a very encouraging response. 

The next morning, Hofmann decided to try again. If the real problem 
was Jacobs’s sales pitch, then maybe the Church would buy it from him. 
He called Don Schmidt and told him he could obtain complete control 
over the document and then he, Hofmann, would sell it to the Church. 
They could trust him, as they had in the past. 

Schmidt wanted to know the price for this service. 

“I think 1 can get it for ten or fifteen,” Mark said. 

Schmidt had to check with his superiors. 

In the meantime, Hofmann tried to develop another buyer, maybe get an 
auction going. He remembered that Brent Metcalfe, whom he had gotten 
to know better since he left Church Security, was doing historical research 
for a rich businessman who was eager to buy Mormon documents — 
especially controversial documents. So eager, in fact, that he had supplied 
Metcalfe, and Metcalfe had supplied Hofmann, with a list of the topics 
he was interested in. 

It was quite a shopping list: the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, 
Joseph Smith’s involvement with money digging, the early practice of 



134 THE MORMON MURDERS 



polygamy, the Adam-God theory, and the priesthood in the Temple. In 
short, every area of special Church sensitivity. 

At the time, it seemed a little strange that an established Mormon 
businessman (a bishop in the Church, according to Metcalfe) would want 
to collect such verboten materials, especially at a time when the Church 
was cracking down. But now Hofmann was too desperate to afford the 
luxury of a lot of questions. He called Metcalfe. 

“You’re not going to believe this document Lyn and I found. It’s made 
to order, so to speak,” Hofmann told him. “It has to do with early 
Mormonism.” 

“Does it have to do with the origins of Mormonism?” Metcalfe asked. 

“Yes.” 

“Does it have to do with the coming forth of the Book of Mormon?” 

“Yes” 

“Does it have to do with the money digging?” Metcalfe was getting 
more excited with each question. 

“Ill just bring it down and show it to you.” 

Hofmann drove over to Metcalfe’s office in the CFS building and 
showed him the document. 

Metcalfe sat and read it. All he could say was, “Oh, my gosh.” And 
when he was done, “I can’t believe this.” 

Metcalfe ran down the hall and returned in a few minutes with a 
handsome, stout, surprisingly young man. 

“Mark Hofmann,” he said, barely able to contain his excitement, “this 
is Steve Christensen.” 



Gordon Hinckley had to consider Steve Christensen just 
about as perfect as a Mormon could get — in this world, at 
least. Handsome, in a kind of overstuffed way that bespoke a manly 
appetite and an absence of vanity, well dressed, well groomed, well 
spoken, and, best of all, impeccably deferential to his elders. Thanks to 
his meteoric rise at CFS, he could now safely be considered “successful” 
despite being only thirty. He had a wife, Terri, who wasn’t just stunningly 
beautiful, but smart and sensible too, and three handsome young sons, 
Joshua, Justin, and Jared. 




TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 135 



Among the elders of the Church like Hinckley, Christensen was already 
something of a legend. A former Boy Scout and president of his senior 
class, Steve had left a conspicuous trail of good works and warm feelings 
in his rapid rise up the Church ladder. There was the time on his mission 
to Australia when the local teenage kids were vandalizing the ward house. 
Young Christensen solved the problem not by going to the local police, 
but by organizing Church-sponsored soccer matches — with punch and 
cookies after the game. There was the time in Centerville, the suburb 
where he lived, when a fire consumed a nursery and Christensen mobil- 
ized the community to help rebuild. There was the time of the great flood, 
when he led the sandbagging effort, saving dozens of homes and busi- 
nesses. 

The legend was helped enormously, of course, by the fact that Steve's 
father was “Mr. Mac," the owner of a chain of clothing stores in the Salt 
Lake City area and a fixture on television advertisements in which he 
hawked his wares with the fervor of a TV evangelist. Men like Hinckley 
had grown up with Mr. Mac. They had bought their suits from him — 
when he would let them pay. Their pictures hung on the walls of his stores 
like pictures of sports stars in a bar or of movie stars at Sardi's. 

As soon as Steve learned to drive, his father had sent him out with 
truckloads of suits to the homes of important General Authorities. They 
could shop at home, pick the ones they liked. When the bill came, it was 
always dramatically reduced — if it came at all. What was good for the 
Church was good for business, Mac Christensen believed. In fact, in his 
mind, the two were practically indistinguishable. It was said of him, 
admiringly, “Going to work and going to church are pretty much the same 
thing for Mac." 

It was on those home-shopping visits that Church leaders first met 
Steve Christensen. He was the serious, diffident young man driving the 
Mr. Mac truck, his tie pulled up tight around his neck, his hair recently 
cut (every two weeks) and neatly combed, speaking in hushed tones, 
shaking their hands solidly. He impressed them even then. 

Steve Christensen had a knack for doing that — impressing older men. 
In Australia, his mission president was so taken by his knowledge of 
Church history and doctrine that he took the young man under his wing 
and appointed him district leader. In college, Steve made a deep impres- 
sion on a history professor when he went out and bought a multivolume 
history of the Popes instead of merely “taking a look at it," as the professor 
had suggested. At CFS, he won his way into Gary Sheets's heart with a 
slick, bound report listing the “ways he could make Sheets's life easier." 



B6 THE MORMON MURDERS 



(The list included chauffeur service for Sheets's peewee baseball team.) 
Sheets rewarded him by making him president of the company at age 
thirty-one. 

Christensen worked the same magic with the father figures on Temple 
Square. While still in his early twenties, he was appointed to the General 
Church-Writing Committee and, at twenty-four, chosen to head the 
highly important Church Doctrinal-Resource Committee, a group of 
much older academics and theologians who prepared doctrinal briefing 
papers for the General Authorities. Three years later, even God responded 
to Christensen's charms, “calling" him to serve as the bishop of his ward 
in Centerville. At twenty-seven, he was the youngest bishop in the 
Church outside of college wards. 

With Hinckley's backing, Christensen was sure to reach regional 
representative within a few years, and the Quorum of the Seventy soon 
after that. Gary Sheets had said it: “Steve Christensen was bom to be 
a General Authority." But everyone knew that was only the beginning. 
Once in the Seventy, advancement would be largely a matter of senior- 
ity, and it wasn't stretching a point to guess that with his head start, 
Christensen might someday be a likely candidate for the First Presi- 
dency, or, dare anyone speculate, the capo di tutti capi 7 Prophet, Seer, 
and Revelator. 

Gordon Hinckley knew that if anyone could succeed at a delicate task 
involving sensitive documents, it was Steve Christensen. 

But there were, in fact, two Steve Christensens, and men like Gordon 
Hinckley saw only one of them. As the oldest of eight children of a 
tyrannical, ungiving father, Christensen had learned everything there was 
to know about deference and accommodation, about the appearance of 
obedience and the reality of resistance. Underneath the Boy Scout uni- 
form, there was, by Mormon standards at least, a closet rebel. 

Gordon Hinckley would have been astonished at the way Bishop Chris- 
tensen, Apostle-in-training, ran his ward. The Church maintained that 
ward jobs were assigned by God. Not Steve Christensen. “Look," he told 
a Sunday-school class soon after being called, “you might as well know, 
speaking at least about myself and about 90 percent of the bishops, we're 
not inspired when we call you to a Church job. So if you covet another 
job, don't covet it, just come ask for it." The Church maintained that 
people with serious psychological problems should seek counsel from their 
bishop. Apostle Bruce R. McConckie had gone so far as to describe 
psychiatry as “the Church of the Devil." But when members of Chris- 
tensen's ward came to him with serious problems, he ignored 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 137 

McConckie's warnings and sent them to a psychiatrist. He even offered 
to help pay the bills. 

The Church ordered that young people who engaged in premarital sex 
should be denied their Temple recommends. Christensen told members 
to “just keep quiet about it” When one young man came to him just 
before heading out on a mission and said he was planning to make a 
confession to the stake president, Christensen advised against it. “If you 
confess to him, he’ll make you stay behind for six months. Only God can 
really forgive you, so work it out with Him.” 

The Church exalted businessmen. Christensen excoriated them. “Why 
should a businessman who bilks people out of their money but who is 
righteous in his own mind go to the Temple instead of someone who is 
conscientious enough to be aware of his own sins?” he asked once. “The 
honest one is going to come in and confess all of his sins. He’s the one 
who really ought to be able to go to the Temple. He's the one who’s truly 
worthy.” 

Christensen knew he was straying from the path. “It’s only a matter 
of time,” he told close friends, “before they fire me as bishop.” But so 
far his luck had held. His superiors were so taken with his charms and 
with his bottom line (tithing went up substantially after he became 
bishop), that every time he offered to quit, they pleaded with him to 
stay. “If you ever want to release me from my job as bishop,” he told 
his stake president, “I’m ready and willing to be released any day. Just 
say the word.” But the answer was always, “Oh, no, no, no. You’re 
doing great.” It was another of the many tactics he had learned in 
Mac Christensen’s shadow. 

And that wasn’t the worst of it. If Hinckley would have found 
Steve’s anti-authoritarian methods disappointing, he would have found 
his ideas appalling. Christensen’s vast readings in Mormon history had 
convinced him that the golden plates were not ancient, if in fact they 
existed at all, and that the Book of Mormon , while it may have been 
divinely inspired, certainly wasn’t what Joseph Smith claimed it was. 
He also knew that the modem Mormon Church bore only the most 
superficial resemblance to the Church that Smith founded. With social 
Mormons and friends among the anti-Mormon underground, he shared 
these heretical views. But to the men in power, to Gordon Hinckley 
and the other father figures in his life, he never breathed a word of 
doubt or dissent. 

In his rare, immodest moments, Christensen considered himself repre- 
sentative of modem, thinking Mormons. He believed in the culture, if not 



138 THE MORMON MURDERS 



in the doctrine — at least as the current leaders of the Church conceived 
it. But he didn't know if he could separate the two, and was afraid to try. 
“I won’t do anything that might get me excommunicated,” he told a 
friend. "I would rather lie publicly and recant my personal beliefs than 
allow myself to be excommunicated and hurt my family.” 

Christensen took the document Hofmann handed him to his office and 
read it quietly. Like Hinckley, he said nothing. He just looked up, his face 
a blank, and asked, “How much do you want for it?” 

“Twenty thousand.” Hofmann realized immediately that he had an- 
swered too quickly. “That’s what Lyn wants for it,” he corrected himself. 

“How about $25,000?” Steve said. “That way Lyn can get $20,000 and 
you can get $5,000 for your efforts.” 

“I’ll have to check with Lyn.” 

Later the same day, Hofmann met with Don Schmidt in the Church 
Office Building. 

Schmidt had good news. He had spoken with Durham and Hinckley. 
They had agreed to buy the letter for $1 5,000 if Hofmann could guaran- 
tee confidentiality. Had he shown the letter to anyone? No, said Hof- 
mann. Can Jacobs be trusted? On the phone that morning, Hofmann had 
reassured Schmidt that Jacobs could be “sworn to secrecy.” The fact that 
he was asking again only verified what Hofmann had suspected all along: 
Hinckley didn’t trust the flamboyant Harvard student even as far as 
tomorrow. This time, with Christensen’s offer on the table, Hofmann 
hesitated. 

There is another way, he said. 

“If the Church would prefer,” he began in a speculative tone, as if the 
idea were just coming to him, “we could see that it was sold to a faithful 
member of the Church. If Hinckley doesn’t want . . .” — better not to be 
too specific. “If the Church is afraid of the publicity. . . .” He knew that 
Hinckley would never trust Jacobs to keep quiet, no matter how many 
oaths he swore. “We could arrange to have it sold to a faithful member 
who would . . .” Would what? Keep quiet? He thought it best to take a 
tactful approach, “. . . who would handle it the way the Church thought 
appropriate.” Schmidt was arguably naive but certainly not stupid. He 
understood. “That way Church officials wouldn’t be officially making 
decisions.” 

Once again, Hofmann was offering them what they most wanted: 
plausible deniability. 

Schmidt said he would check with his superiors. 



TOO COOD TO BE TRUE 139 



* * * 

The next day, he called with the news Hofmann was expecting. ‘‘My 
superiors think it would be more appropriate to have that happen to it — so 
far as a faithful member making the purchase/' 

Now the only question was, How badly did Christensen want it? 

Hofmann returned to the CFS building the next day with some star- 
tling news. “I was wrong/’ he told Christensen. “Lyn wants $100,000." 

Steve Christensen had walked out of negotiations over less. But he 
wanted this document. 

“You know the Church is interested in buying this," Hofmann said 
ominously. He had done his homework. Someone had told him, probably 
Metcalfe, that Christensen sided with the new historians who wanted to 
investigate the Church’s past, even the dark comers of Joseph Smith's 
money digging. If the Church bought the letter, Hofmann intimated, no 
one would ever see it again. 

Christensen knew better. He had been on the phone already with 
Spencer Kimball’s secretary, Arthur Haycock, and G. Homer Durham. 
Durham had warned him that this was a “sensitive document" and had 
to be treated accordingly. Christensen had reassured him that his inten- 
tions were entirely “faithful," that he had no intention of embarrassing 
the Church. His mission was to get that letter and keep it out of “enemy 
hands." 

Christensen shared none of this with Metcalfe or Hofmann. 

After a day or two of negotiations, Hofmann informed Metcalfe that 
Jacobs would take $40,000. Christensen agreed to pay that amount — 
almost precisely the value of the Book of Commandments Jacobs had 
originally asked for from Hinckley. The night before the contract was to 
be signed, Hofmann called Jacobs and broke the news. “I've made all the 
arrangements," he said. This was the first Jacobs had heard of it. “A 
contract is drawn up, and Christensen will be paying $40,000, with 
$10,000 payments every six months." Jacobs was startled but pleased. His 
share, $5,000, would pay for his first-term tuition at Harvard Divinity 
School. 

On January 6, 1984, Metcalfe met Hofmann and Jacobs in the recep- 
tion area of the CFS building and escorted them to Christensen's office 
to sign the contract. Hofmann hung back and let Jacobs take center stage. 
It was, after all, Jacobs's discovery. 

On January 9, Christensen wrote G. Homer Durham to inform him 
that the document was safely in his hands and to reassure him that if and 



140 THE MORMON MURDERS 



when the document was made public, it would only be after a thorough 
analysis by “faithful historians” and accompanied by a “careful commen- 
tary.” In the long run, he added, “it is my intention and desire to donate 
the document to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” 

When Peggy Fletcher, the editor of Sunstone magazine, heard that a 
letter linking Joseph Smith to money digging and folk magic was being 
suppressed by the Church, she went straight to the top. 

“President Hinckley, I really, really think this letter should be released 
to the public. You could call a press conference and say, ‘We have this 
letter, we don't know what the implications of it are. It's just of interest, 
and weTe not ashamed of it/ It's so much better if we do that as a Church. 
A lot of people are talking about this. I have been called by people from 
all over, including Time magazine, who are going to do a story on it. Why 
don't we just do it ourselves? That way we won't look like we're hiding 
it or are ashamed of it.” 

Hinckley paused for a moment. “We don't own the document,” he 
finally said. “And so we can't call a press conference. Christensen has it.” 
“I know that,” Fletcher pressed. “But you know Steve, and I know 
Steve. If you called him and said, ‘Let's have a press conference, a joint 
press conference,' you know he would do it.” 

Hinckley took another long pause, the very model of patience. “It's out 
of my hands,” he said. “It's not my problem.” 



Now that they had the document, the two Steve Christen- 
sens couldn't agree on what to do with it. 

One hired a team of researchers to study the “historical context” of the 
letter with the objective of writing “the ultimate book on early Mormon- 
ism, especially on the magic connection.” The panel reflected all of 
Christensen's guarded hopes for more openness in Mormon scholarship. 
The group included, on the one hand, Dean Jessee, the Church's favorite 
handwriting expert, and on the other, Ron Walker, a senior research 
historian at the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute, who was reported to be 
deeply troubled by the Church's hostility toward independent scholar- 
ship. After much pleading, Christensen even included Brent Metcalfe, 




TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 141 



whose borderline apostasy was well known — especially to the Church. 

On January 24, Christensen charged his team of truth seekers: “I 
believe that the work that you Brethren do will be of significance to 
Mormon scholarship in the years to come, that this can and will become 
a standard cited reference, and that the Church will be blessed as a result 
of the honest, accurate historical foundation which the three of you men 
will provide to the study of early Mormon origins/' 

Meanwhile, the other Christensen was busy ensuring that the docu- 
ment stayed out of the public eye for as long as possible. Only days after 
the purchase in January, he sent it East for an extensive (and extended) 
examination by Kenneth Rendell, of Newton, Massachusetts, one of the 
world's foremost document dealers. Rendell rarely agreed to authenticate 
a document he wasn't selling, but he made an exception out of deference 
to his respected colleague, Mark Hofmann. 

Where one Christensen had quickly invited Walker and Jessee to join 
the research team, the other delayed formalizing the offer until May, 
almost five months later, offering each man $6,000 and 25 percent of the 
profits from the sale of the book that would come out of their efforts. That 
gave them a stake in not leaking anything to the press in advance of 
publication. 

If there was a weak link in the chain of silence, Christensen knew, it 
was Mark Hofmann. 

As if sensing his client's doubts, soon after the deal was signed, Hof- 
mann came by with another offer. He had a document that he thought 
Christensen would be interested in. It was a typescript of a legal agree- 
ment between a group of men, including Joseph Smith and Josiah Stowell, 
dated November I, 1825, on how to divide the profits — “Suppossd to be 
a valueble mine of either Gold or Silver & also to cont[ain] Coind money 
& bars or ingot of Gold or Silver" — that resulted from Smith's money- 
digging efforts “at a certain Place in Pennsylvania." 

It was enough to give doctrinaire Mormons heart failure. This was the 
agreement for the business deal that went sour and ended up in a New 
York courtroom in 1826. This was the much-dreaded confession. At best, 
this document proved yet again, and beyond a doubt, what the anti- 
Mormons had been saying all along, that Joseph Smith was, for a period 
at least, a money digger and penny-ante con man. At worst, it was evi- 
dence of imagination and ambition running out of control, suggesting all 
too vividly a young Joseph Smith, failing to dig up any real “Gold or 
Silver," simply digging some gold plates out of the same rich soil of his 
imagination. 



142 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Hofmann was prepared not only to give Christensen all u legal rights 
of ownership” in the transcript, but also to offer him a right of first refusal 
on the actual document at a fixed price of $1 5,000 if Hofmann was able 
to pry it away from its current owners, "a couple of elderly sisters.” And 
all Hofmann wanted in return was the next $10,000 installment of the 
Salamander money, which, under the terms of the contract, wasn't due 
until July 20. It was a gracious, generous act, Christensen thought, one 
that clearly showed Hofmann's good intentions. 

Just to be sure, however, Christensen checked with his lawyer, Alan 
Smith, at the Salt Lake City office of the prestigious New York firm 
LeBoeuf, Lamb, Leiby & MacRae. Just what were Hofmann's — and now 
Christensen's — legal rights of ownership in the documents? Could he sue 
Hofmann for revealing the contents of either document? Three weeks 
later, Smith wrote to say that the legal questions involved were "difficult” 
but that he was still working on them "methodically, albeit gradually.” All 
Smith had to do was check with Jerald and Sandra Tanner. For obvious 
reasons, they had researched the question thoroughly and discovered that 
there was no legal way to control the contents of the documents or their 
reproduction. At least one other person knew about the results of the 
Tanners' research: Mark Hofmann. 

Christensen was fighting a losing battle. 

In early February, before she asked Gordon Hinckley about the Sala- 
mander Letter, Peggy Fletcher called Christensen. "Steve, I'm trying to 
reach Mark Hofmann,” she said. "I heard from someone that there's this 
letter and that Mark Hofmann has sold it to someone.” 

"Yeah, me,” Christensen confessed. 

"Why don't you tell me about it? We want to do a story on it.” 

"I can't release anything about it now, but I’ll give you first rights to 
the story. Maybe we can do the research and do a session at the sympo- 
sium in August.” (In April and August each year Sunstone sponsored a 
conference in which Mormon and non-Mormon scholars of Mormon 
history and doctrine would give lectures on recent research.) 

Fletcher knew better than to press. She had worked with Christensen 
during his stint on the Doctrinal-Resource Committee and knew his 
philosophy on sensitive documents well. "This is how I'm handling it,” 
he would say whenever something controversial came up. "It's okay to 
keep ideas quiet in the short run, with the intention of revealing them 
at a time, and in a way that is most palatable to believers.” 

Christensen had hoped at least to get through the summer before word 




Salt Lake City. Police dubbed it “the Beirut of 
the West.” 




LDS Temple, Salt Lake City. Joseph Smith 
believed that there were many gods, and that 
all good Mormons will one day be gods in their 
own worlds. 



LDS Visitors Center, Salt Lake City. Some- 
one is converted to Mormonism every two and 
a half minutes . 










Kathy Sheets (kneeling) with, from left to 
right: Joseph Robertson and Katie Sheets 
Robertson, Gary Sheets, Jimmy Sheets (in 
tree), Gretchen Sheets, Heidi Sheets Jones, 
and Roger Jones with son Danny. She repre- 
sented everything that was good and right 
about the Mormon religion. 

Gary Sheets with a portrait of Kathy Sheets. 
‘7 did it,” he said the day of the first bomb- 
ings. “ My friend’s dead and my wife’s dead 
because of a situation / got them into.” 




* 





Steven and Terri Christensen on their wed- 
ding day, September 16, 1976. Underneath 
the Boy Scout uniform, he was, by Mormon 
standards, a closet rebel. 

The Christensens’ four sons: Joshua, Justin, 
Jared, and Steven. Steven , Jr., was bom on 
January 9, 1986 — what would have been his 
fathers thirty-second birthday. 



Cops with Hofmanns burned-out Toyota 
N1R2. They feared that the water used to put 
out the fire had washed important evidence 
down the drains. So they searched the drains. 

Detectives Ken Farnsworth (left) and Jim 
Bell. The police department got so crazy 
about leaks that the two detectives in charge 
of the case could only talk to each other. 






Church leaders (left to right) Dallin Oaks, 
Gordon Hinckley, and Hugh Pinnock at a 
press conference held after the bombings. 
“ These guys up there weren't just people 
sold one newsman, “they were prophets of 
God , and on a first-name basis with the 
Lord." 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 143 



leaked out. Here it was only weeks after the deal, and he was already 
making excuses. The Church had been right: this was a hot potato. He 
knew the research wouldn't be done by August, but he would cross that 
bridge when he came to it. This would at least keep things quiet until 
then. 

Within days, Richard Ostling, the religion editor at Time magazine, 
called to say he had heard rumors of a sensitive letter and he planned to 
do an article on it. The so-called rumors were stunningly specific. He knew 
the letter in question was dated October 23, 1830, was written by Martin 
Harris to W. W. Phelps, and dealt with the revelation of the golden 
plates. Ostling had also heard about the Church’s curious policy of buying 
controversial documents and squirreling them away. (Unknown to Chris- 
tensen, Ostling’s anonymous tipster had also helpfully directed him to 
Lyn Jacobs, who, when Ostling interviewed him the following week, 
claimed that his decision to withdraw from negotiations with the Church 
was based entirely on the failure to agree on an acceptable price.) 

Christensen tried to contain the damage. “I don’t want to publish the 
letter until I can also publish some explanations.” 

That might work with Peggy Fletcher, but Ostling wasn’t buying it, so 
Christensen tried another tack. “Besides, I promised Peggy Fletcher that 
I would give it to her first, either for use in the Sunstone Review , or, 
preferably at the next conference.” Trying to buy time, Christensen lied, 
“. . . which isn’t until early April.” The next conference was in April, but 
he hadn’t promised anything to Fletcher until August — at the earliest. A 
little white lie for the Lord. 

He closed with a plea: “Can’t you sit the story out for a while?” 
Ostling called Peggy Fletcher. He didn’t want to scoop her but he 
couldn’t sit on the story forever. Theirs was a competitive business. When 
was the earliest she could publish the letter? The March issue of the 
Review , which went to press on March 9. Fine. Ostling agreed to hold 
off on his account until March 12. 

Ostling wrote Christensen back and explained the deal: “This will serve 
Sunstone s interests, give me a journalistic reward for sitting on an impor- 
tant story for a month, and give you time to complete a thorough histori- 
cal article to accompany release of the text.” 

A month! Gordon Hinckley’s Steve Christensen couldn’t believe what 
he was hearing. Here he was conducting a full-scale rethinking of the 
founding years and early doctrine of the Mormon religion, and Time 
magazine expects it to be done in a month! That may be a long time by 
the yellow journalism standards of Time Inc., he thought, but it was a split 



144 THE MORMON MURDERS 



second in the eyes of the Church that would ultimately judge the work. 

Ostling was unmoved. “I think it would be unrealistic,” he added 
ominously, “to suppose this will keep until the next Sunstone deadline, 
in early April. ... I might be forced to go ahead with a story any time 
this appears in another publication before your official release date. I can 
tell you from much experience as a journalist that we would be very lucky 
if it remains bottled up that long.” 

They weren't lucky. In early March, Jerald and Sandra Tanner blew the 
story open in their monthly newsletter, the Salt Lake City Messenger . 
They called the Harris letter, of which they had seen excerpts, “one of 
the greatest evidences against the divine origin of the Book of Mormon. ” 
Christensen was furious. He couldn't believe that the text of the docu- 
ment had already leaked — to the Tanners, no less. Clearly, he had fum- 
bled the ball for the Church. On May 7, feeling cornered, he issued a terse 
public statement. 



It is true that I am the owner of a letter written by Martin Harris to 
William W. Phelps, dated October 23, 1830. While it is hoped that the 
letter is authentic, professional tests have not yet been performed on the 
document. Before I will release transcripts or photographs of the document 
to the public, I wish to first determine the document’s historicity as much 
as possible. 1 have therefore sought the help and advice of competent 
historians to assist me in determining the reliability of the contents of the 
letter. 

Until the above-referenced research and tests have further progressed, I 
do not feel at liberty to share the full contents of the letter. It is unfortunate 
that publicity of the document has preceded its historical authentication. 
This has lead [sic] to some cases of misstatement as well as numerous 
phrases being taken out of context. 



To demonstrate to Church leaders just how angry he really was, Chris- 
tensen also threatened legal action against the Tanners for violating his 
copyright to the Harris letter, and offered to testify in the lawsuit of 
another researcher who was suing the Tanners for publishing without 
permission sensitive material the researcher had obtained from the 
Church. Perhaps in courtroom questioning, he could find out who had 
leaked the excerpts from the letter. 

In the end, neither Christensen nor the Tanners ever testified on the 
matter. If they had, Christensen would have been shocked to discover that 
the Tanners' source was none other than Mark Hofmann. The March 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 145 



article had been based on the notes Michael Marquardt had made at his 
five-hour meeting with Hofmann the previous December, before Chris- 
tensen bought the letter. 

Christensen didn't have any better luck tracing the source of the leak 
to Ostling at Time — one of the publications that Hofmann had men- 
tioned to Marquardt in December. At one point, Lyn Jacobs helpfully 
suggested that perhaps Leonard Arrington, whose son and daughter-in- 
law both worked for Time Inc., was the source, but Christensen could 
never establish the link. 

With the cat now well out of the bag, Peggy Fletcher approached 
Christensen again. 

“I was the first journalist to hear about this," she said. “You asked me 
not to print anything about it, and 1 didn't. How about letting me print 
a story about the letter, then say you are doing all this research." 

“I can’t," he said. “I'm under a lot of pressure." 

“From whom?" Fletcher had heard the rumors that the Church was 
pressuring Steve to keep the whole thing quiet, and that now, with the 
Tanners’ revelation, the heat was on. 

He wouldn't say. 

She tried again. “Why not at least get the basic information out to the 
audience?" 

He was adamant. Too much was out already. The debacle with the 
Tanners was exactly what he knew would happen if the text preceded the 
explanation. As one Church leader had put it, “Meat before milk always 
produces indigestion." “No," he said. “1 want to do it my way. When we 
release the information, I want to release it in a context that people can 
understand." 

Meanwhile, Jerald Tanner had decided that it was a moot point. The 
Salamander Letter, he said, was probably a fake. 

There were just too many parallels between Harris's account and E. D. 
Howe's Mormonism Unvailed , which was published four years later. He 
also thought it strange that Harris, a religious man, didn’t mention God 
or angels or devils even once . “This just isn't the Martin Harris 1 know," 
said Jerald. Sandra disagreed, and in the June issue of the Messenger , they 
wrote a divided editorial, Jerald calling it a fake, Sandra calling it genuine. 

Now it was Hofmann's turn to be furious. 

He approached Sandra Tanner, who had been passing out copies of 
Jerald's list of parallels between the Harris letter and the Howe book, at 
the Sunstone symposium in August. 



146 THE MORMON MURDERS 



just don't understand how there can be any question about this/’ he 
complained, his high voice uncharacteristically filled with emotion. “It's 
so obvious that it's all been verified and proved. Christensen did all these 
tests and has all this confirmation." 

“Well, we need some specifics on this, Mark," said Sandra, her school- 
teacher manner seeming even more solid and businesslike next to Hof- 
mann's schoolboy petulance. “Who did you get it from?" 

“It would be so easy to find out," he insisted. “There are only three 
dealers in New York that I could have gotten this kind of thing from. It's 
easy to verify all this stuff." 

He is a beautiful salesman, Sandra thought. He seemed so convinced. 
“Christensen has had this thing all tested," he repeated. 

Sandra went back to what was for her the key: “But who did you get 
it from?" 

Hofmann straightened up, as though regrouping. “1 can’t divulge 
where I got it," he said, suddenly very straight, very professional, very 
officious. “Steve Christensen has the letter, he bought it, and I don't have 
a right to tell. When I sell a document to anybody, I always give them 
the right to control what they want to do with the document and what 
they want to divulge. I turn over to them a statement saying just where 
1 got it and the background of the document and everything. It's their 
document and their background, and it's up to them to do what they want 
with it. Christensen has all that information, and you'll have to get it from 
Christensen. That's just the way I do business." 

He paused and looked at her. His lower lip crept forward. “I can't 
understand why you, of all people, would be the ones to question me," 
he said slowly. He looked, Sandra remembers, “crushed and practically in 
tears." 

Around the same time, a number of Mormon scholars, some of them 
connected to the underground, received in the mail typed copies of Joseph 
Smith's 1825 letter to Josiah Stowell, the letter that Hofmann had sold 
directly to Gordon Hinckley in January 1983, the letter that would “never 
see the light of day." The letters were not signed and bore only a New 
York City postmark. With its references to money digging, clever spirits, 
and detailed instructions on how to use a hazel stick to locate buried 
treasure, the Stowell letter seemed to confirm all the wild rumors about 
the Salamander Letter. Surely this would satisfy the skeptics. 

But it didn’t. On August 22, 1984, the Tanners published The Money- 
Digging Letters , in which they once again questioned the authenticity of 
the Salamander Letter. 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 147 



* * * 

To Christensen's great relief, Richard Ostling's article never did appear 
in Time. His editors twice pulled the story due to 'lack of documenta- 
tion." But it was only a temporary victory. 

On the heels of the Tanners' publication, the full story hit in the 
August 25 issue of the Los Angeles Times — another of the papers Hof- 
mann had mentioned to Marquardt: 

A letter purportedly written in 1830 by Mormon- 
ism’s first convert is now threatening to alter the ideal- 
ized portrait of church founder Joseph Smith. . . . 

The First Presidency’s Gordon Hinckley said the 
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had earlier 
indicated that no comment would be made until the 
letter’s analysis was completed. 

But insiders here say there are indications that the 
letter may be valid. 

Even if it is not, a respected non-Mormon authority 
on Mormon origins said the white salamander letter 
is consistent with other evidence that Joseph Smith 
had his occult side. 

The article in the September 22 Arizona Republic (a paper with a large, 
affluent Mormon readership) was even worse: 

White salamanders, ancient spirits, peep stones and 
divining rods are the stuff of magic and 19th-century 
American frontier folklore. 

According to two recently discovered letters dating 
from the beginnings of the Church of Jesus Christ of 
Latter-day Saints, they were also the stuff of prophet 
Joseph Smith’s early life and the origins of Mormon- 
ism. . . . 

Christensen tried to respond to the deluge of speculation. “What hap- 
pened was not that unnatural or uncommon given what was going on in 
Joseph Smith's day," the release concluded. “To anyone who has studied 
the Joseph Smith period there are not a lot of surprises in the letter." 
Official Church spokesmen toed the same line, trying, as they had with 
the Joseph Smith III blessing, to pass off the document as an historical 



148 THE MORMON MURDERS 



curiosity. “It certainly sounds consistent with the times,” said spokesman 
Jerry Cahill, “and possibly is an interesting sidelight to what is known.” 
When asked if Church leaders were upset by the most recent round 
of bad press for Smith and his Church, Christensen said, “I frankly don't 
think the Brethren have had the time or the interest to even worry much 
about the letter.” 

In fact, they could think about little else. 

Hinckley had to be furious. The drubbing in the press had continued 
right through September and up to the time of the General Conference 
in October, a time when thousands of well-groomed Mormons from all 
over the world make the pilgrimage to the vast, egg-shaped Tabernacle, 
famous for its organ and choir; a time when the General Authorities make 
one of their rare public appearances, like the Politburo at Lenin's Tomb; 
a time to reassure the flock that all is well with the true Church. 

But all wasn't well. And in between the usual benign, noncontroversial 
testimonials and rededications to the good life, Hinckley issued a stern 
warning concerning the dangers inherent in too much digging into the 
past. On Sunday morning, October 7, Hinckley noted in his conference 
speech that “for more than a century and a half, enemies, critics, and 
some would-be scholars have worn out their lives trying to disprove the 
validity of [Joseph Smith’s] vision. Of course they cannot understand it. 
The things of God are understood by the spirit of God.” 

Hinckley's generalities were fleshed out by Elder Bruce R. McConkie, 
a senior Apostle, in his conference speech later that afternoon: 

On every issue it behooves us to determine what the Lord would have 
us do and what counsel he has given through the appointed officers of his 
kingdom on earth. 

No true Latter-day Saint will ever take a stand that is in opposition to 
what the Lord has revealed to those who direct the affairs of his earthly 
kingdom. 

No Latter-day Saint who is true and faithful in all things will ever pursue 
a course, or espouse a cause, or publish an article or book that weakens or 
destroys the faith. 

At least one person in the audience took McConkie's words to heart: 
Christensen's boss, Gary Sheets. Always generous with his money, 
Sheets had been bankrolling the research project on the Salamander 
Letter, not so much out of historical curiosity as out of fondness for 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 149 



Steve. But when he began to hear the water-cooler gossip about Brent 
Metcalfe 'losing his testimony'' as a result of his work on the project, he 
decided it was time to act. Souls were at stake. As a bishop, he had no 
choice but to fire Metcalfe and terminate the project. And it had to be 
done quickly, before still others were "deprived of their testimonies." 
He told Christensen about McConkie's talk and, according to Chris- 
tensen's later account, hinted about other, more direct pressures from 
elsewhere in the Church hierarchy. The project had to be shut down, 
and that included the book that Christensen planned. "It just isn't 
politically wise," Sheets stressed. 

Christensen capitulated. Two days later, he terminated the project and 
called Metcalfe into his office. He blamed the debacle entirely on Sheets 
and offered generous severance terms of full pay for three months and 
$1,000 a month for six months after that. Christensen wanted no disgrun- 
tled leakers or, as Hinckley might have said, no loose ends. 

Soon afterward, Peggy Fletcher asked Christensen why he had fired 
Metcalfe. 

"The materials are too sensitive," he said. "Gary was being leaned on 
as a bishop — he was told to back off, since the subject matter is so 
controversial." 

When the dust cleared, Christensen sat down to write a damage report. 
On October 16, he hand-delivered it to Hinckley's office. Starred and 
underlined at the top of the three-page letter were the words ** Personal 
& Confidential **. 

First, he reassured Hinckley, the Church's P.R. genius, of his discre- 
tion: "During this whole period I have been extremely unfriendly to the 
media." Then he reported the cataclysmic events of the previous week. 
"Last Thursday I had the unpleasant experience of terminating the work- 
ing relationship with Brent Metcalfe. The main reason is that Gary Sheets 
and myself became uncomfortable with many of Brent's personal opinions 
relating to Church History and Doctrine. More important, we did not 
want to financially underwrite a book relating to the early origins of the 
Church and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon if the work had 
the potential of doing more harm than good. . . ." 

Christensen gave Hinckley credit for bringing him to his senses. "I was 
extremely impressed with your Conference talk," he wrote. "I believe that 
the Church has more pressing work to accomplish than to be consumed 
by questions and contradictions from the past. While it is better that we 
lead forth in historical inquiry rather than leaving the task to our enemies, 



150 THE MORMON MURDERS 



those so engaged must have sufficient faith that the day will come when 
all is revealed and then the pieces will all fit together." 

Finally, Christensen asked Hinckley what he should do with the Sala- 
mander Letter. 

“I am still not eager to thrust the document in the hands of the media. 
Personally, I would like to stay as low profile as is possible. ... If the 
Church would like it, it is yours for the asking — just tell me when." 

The next day, October 17, at a United Way luncheon, Christensen was 
surprised to find himself seated next to Hinckley. Through most of the 
meal they apparently talked little. Then suddenly, with hardly a word of 
introduction, Hinckley turned to him and said in a low voice, “We would 
like to see the letter come to the Church." 



The market for Mormon documents was getting too hot. In 
1984, with all the controversy surrounding the Salamander 
Letter, Hofmann decided it was time to step out and let things cool down 
for a while. Of course, he left open the possibility that something truly 
spectacular might lure him back. 

In the meantime, he turned his skills and uncanny good fortune to the 
larger and even more lucrative Gentile documents market. He began 
trading the autographs of well-known historical and literary figures. He 
had particular success in uncovering obscure but valuable signatures like 
that of Button Gwinnett, a man who signed the Declaration of Indepen- 
dence but very little else, making his signature an expensive must for 
collectors assembling a complete set of signers. He discovered previously 
unknown, inscribed first editions of books like Jack London's Call of the 
Wild and Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer. 

In was a fabulously rich market, with thousands of collectors, including 
such “deep pockets" as the Library of Congress and Malcolm Forbes. 
Now, instead of digging through attic trunks in Coalville, Utah, Hofmann 
jetted off to manuscript auctions at Sotheby's in New York. He bought 
tens of thousands of dollars' worth of rare books from prestigious dealers 
like Schiller-Wapner Galleries in New York and Mark Hime in Los 
Angeles. 

He met the leading lights in the documents business, men like Charles 




TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 151 



Hamilton, the country's foremost handwriting expert and the author of 
Great Forgers and Famous Fakes , a book for which Hofmann expressed 
keen admiration. Hamilton was the man who had finally unmasked the 
famous Hitler diaries after experts all over the world declared them genu- 
ine. A venerable septuagenarian with a full head of white hair and a 
persona of Dickensian complexity who had filched his first autograph from 
a trash can at age nine, Hamilton looked forward to Hofmann's unan- 
nounced visits. The two would sit and talk for hours about history, litera- 
ture, science, or music. Hofmann showed particular interest in Hamilton's 
recent book on Shakespeare's handwriting. (To Hamilton’s surprise, Hof- 
mann already knew there were only six known signatures of the Bard's.) 

How encouraging, Hamilton thought, to find such an "unassuming, 
modest scholar, eager to add to the store of knowledge that the heritage 
of our country requires for its sustenance." In a business filled with hype 
and borderline claims, it was so refreshing to find someone who took a 
soft, low-key, and impeccably honest approach to his documents. When 
Hofmann brought something in, he always seemed uncertain about its 
value. “What do you think?" he would ask, or “Could it be genuine?" 

One day, Hofmann handed him a letter signed “Joseph Smith." 

Hamilton took one look and handed it back. “It is the wrong man," 
he said in his theatrical Irish tenor. “There were enough Joseph Smiths 
in upstate New York to create a regiment out of them. The name doesn't 
mean a damn thing. You've got the wrong man." 

Later, Hofmann asked him to take another look. 

Out of affection, Hamilton obliged. But his answer was the same. 
“Mark, this just isn’t Joseph Smith's handwriting," he concluded. “It's 
too upright. The letters are too clear. It's not smudged enough. It does 
not have that precipitous movement toward the margin that Smith's 
handwriting had." Then Hamilton looked at the date. “Are you aware 
that Smith was nineteen at the time that this document was written?" 

“Yes," said Hofmann tentatively, as if he expected more. 

When Hamilton began to read the document — something he didn't 
always find necessary — he noticed the double consonants characteristic of 
Joseph Smith and a reference to a ‘spirit.’ " 

“Jesus Christ, Mark, this could be a very early Smith and a different 
handwriting. The handwriting looks labored, as though the writer had 
taken hours and hours to write. Which would make sense, for someone 
who hadn't done much writing." 

“Do you really think it could be?" 

Hamilton eventually authenticated the letter. 



152 THE MORMON MURDERS 



^ ^ ^ 

Hofmann was always asking questions — “picking my brains,” Hamilton 
called it. What should he be on the lookout for? “Mr. Hamilton, sir, you 
know 1 have such good luck at finding things,” he would say. Hamilton 
told him one time, “I never knew a guy who had such good luck as you 
have, except one — a guy named Carl Williams, and Williams was, unbe- 
knownst to me, stealing from the Philadelphia city hall.” 

Hofmann laughed hysterically at that. 

With new contacts, new leads, new deals, new clients, Hofmann needed 
a new number two — someone to take the place of Jacobs, who was both 
too busy with his school and too wrapped up in his Mormon pamphlets 
to be of more than occasional use. The botched deal with Hinckley had 
clearly shown the limits of his usefulness. 

Hofmann found his man in Shannon Flynn, a fat, friendly, seemingly 
harmless young man who laughed easily — too easily some thought. The 
two first met in 1982 when Lyn Jacobs introduced them. Jacobs had 
introduced Flynn to the joys of collecting Mormonabilia, and Flynn had 
asked for an audience with the “King of Mormon memorabilia,” Mark 
Hofmann. 

To Hofmann, Flynn was the perfect lieutenant: not too smart, not too 
curious, but very eager. To Flynn, Hofmann was a savior. He had been 
working as a salesman at a photography studio owned by relatives for 
longer than he cared to calculate. He would have followed anyone, any- 
where, to get away from the calm and the boredom and the predictability 
of it all. Because underneath the considerable girth and the amiable grin 
lurked a different person altogether. 

Flynn's apartment was filled with stacks of Soldier of Fortune , piles of 
camouflage clothing, an arsenal of guns and pistols, and enough smokeless 
powder to blow up a small town. Even walking around the pacific streets 
of Salt Lake City, Flynn carried his favorite weapon: a Philippine butterfly 
knife, a mean, double-bladed switchblade that posed more danger to the 
untrained owner than to an armed assailant. But Flynn had mastered the 
deadly flick of the wrist that turned him into a lethal fighting machine. 
He may have looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy, but underneath, Shan- 
non Flynn was Rambo. 

Like any good soldier of fortune, Flynn had to prove his loyalty. 

In late September 1984, he called Wilford Cardon, a man of considera- 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 153 



ble wealth — oil, construction, convenience stores, etc. — and impeccable 
Mormon credentials. Cardon had been Flynn's mission president in Brazil 
in 1978, and the two had taken to each other like father and son. 

In his eagerness, Flynn spilled the whole deal over the phone: his friend 
Mark Hofmann had found an extremely rare and valuable letter signed 
by Betsy Ross. According to Hofmann, he could sell it for at least twice 
the purchase price. All he needed was an investor. Cardon was noncom- 
mittal but pleased to hear from Flynn. He invited him and his new friend 
to come to Mesa, Arizona, and pitch the deal in person. 

Flynn and Hofmann made plane reservations, and on October 6, left 
for Arizona. Flynn was off and running. This was just the life he had been 
dreaming of. Big deals, quick trips, jetting off on a moment’s notice to 
exotic destinations to sign big-money, flick-of-the-pen deals with movers 
and shakers. He told friends he felt like James Bond. 

At the meeting with Cardon, Hofmann described the 1807 letter 
signed by Betsy Ross. 

“What makes this letter so valuable?” asked Cardon, who knew, he 
admitted, a lot about investments but nothing about documents. 

“It’s the only signed letter that’s ever been found,” said Hofmann. 

“Where did you get it?” 

Hofmann refused to give the source. 

Flynn quickly piped up, “That’s common in the documents business. 
A dealer never reveals his sources.” 

As an astute businessman, Cardon could understand that. 

This was the deal: Hofmann could buy the letter for $18,000. Each of 
them — Hofmann, Flynn, and Cardon — would put up a third of the 
money. Each would receive a third of the profits from the sale. 

“What about finding a buyer?” Cardon wanted to know. 

“No problem,” said Hofmann. 

There was one more thing. Flynn wanted to ask a favor of his old 
mission president. Since he didn’t have $6,000, and couldn’t put his hands 
on it anytime soon, could Cardon loan him the money? 

What’s $1 2,000 between a father and a son? thought Cardon. He’d lost 
that much, and more, on any number of investments. If he could help 
Shannon get into a lucrative and fulfilling business, it was well worth the 
risk. If he made money from the investment, so much the better. On 
October 30, he sent Hofmann a check for $12,000. 

On his next visit to New York, Hofmann dropped in on Charles Hamil- 
ton. 



154 THE MORMON MURDERS 



“What should I be looking for?” he asked, as he always did. 

This time, Hamilton had a specific suggestion. “A signature of a moun- 
tain man who led the Mormons to Salt Lake City, Jim Bridger, is so damn 
rare that 1 never saw one in my life,” he said. “However, Bridger was 
illiterate, so you’re looking for an X mark.” 

“I’m going to really make an attempt,” Hofmann said in his most 
determined, Andy Hardy voice. 

Several months went by before Cardon heard anything more about his 
investment. He never did see the Betsy Ross letter, although Flynn sent 
him a photograph of it in December. Around the same time, Hofmann 
finally called, his voice quivering with excitement. 

“Someone has offered to buy the Betsy Ross letter in exchange for 
sixteen promissory notes to a company called Livingston & Kincaid Co.” 
“Is that good news?” Cardon wondered. 

Hofmann, apparently, thought it was great news. These weren’t just 
any notes. “They’re signed by Jim Bridger,” he announced, then felt 
obliged to explain, “Of course, they’re signed with an X y Bridger being 
illiterate. But that X is so rare that they’re worth much more than the 
Betsy Ross letter.” 

On his next trip to New York, Hofmann returned to Charles Hamilton’s 
gallery on 57th Street. 

“Mr. Hamilton, I have located a very large collection of receipts, and 
all of it’s worthless — except for three Jim Bridgers in it.” 

Hamilton’s ears pricked up. 

“I have to buy the whole collection to get them,” Hofmann continued. 
“But I don’t want them to know why I’m buying this collection of 
receipts. What do you think 1 could get for them?” 

“Five thousand each,” Hamilton answered without hesitation. Then he 
looked at his newest and brightest student: “For that information, I trust 
you’re going to offer one of them to me.” 

“Of course,” Hofmann offered cheerily. 

Not long afterward, Hofmann sold one of the notes to Brent Ashworth 
for $5,000. “How many are there?” Ashworth asked. 

“This is the only one,” Hofmann said. 

A week later, he arrived at their regular Wednesday meeting at the 
Crossroads Mall with some bad news: there were, in fact, four Bridger 
notes. Ashworth bit his tongue and agreed to pay a second $5,000 for a 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 155 



second note. Not long afterward, he bumped into Hofmann coming out 
of Cosmic Aeroplane, a bookstore in Salt Lake that occasionally dealt in 
rare books and documents. Then Ashworth went inside. 

“What was Mark doing here?” he asked the proprietor, Steve Barnett. 
“What's Mark always doing?” said Barnett, a pleasant if mousy man, 
well suited to his business. “Selling something.” 

Ashworth was almost afraid to ask. “What was it this time?” 

“Jim Bridger notes.” 

Ashworth looked at the two notes Barnett had bought. They weren't 
like the ones he had bought, but they weren’t like the ones he hadn't 
bought either. That meant there were six. At least. Infuriated, Ashworth 
stopped payment on a check for the last $1,250 installment for the notes. 

When Hamilton heard about the sale to Ashworth, he called Hofmann. 
“Look, why don’t you let me sell one of those notes? Why don't you let 
me sell one at auction? I could get $7,500 for it.” 



Mark Hofmann was the talk of the town. Rumors rico- 
cheted around the market about the dizzying profits to be 
made in document deals — Hofmann's deals. Collectors scrambled over 
one another to get a piece of the action. So what if he was a little evasive 
about his sources, hard to get ahold of when he owed you money, a nut 
about secrecy? What were a few personal idiosyncrasies when you were 
looking at double your money in six months, or four months, or less. 

Hofmann brought A1 Rust the Salamander contract signed by Steve 
Christensen. It called for four $10,000 payments. “But, hey,” Hofmann 
said, “I need $5,000 right now. I'll give you this contract, which is for 
$10,000, and you'll be paid within ninety days, $10,000 for $5,000.” 
Rust was understandably suspicious. “Why would you want to do that, 
Mark?” he asked. “You can go to a bank and borrow $5,000. In ninety 
days you’re gonna have to pay back maybe $600 interest at the most.” 
“1 need the money right now,” Hofmann insisted. 

Rust wasn't going to put up a fight. Something about gift horses. “Fine, 
give me the contract.” 

The deal was done, and ninety days later Hofmann came up with the 
money: 100 percent return in three months. But Hofmann had a better 




156 THE MORMON MURDERS 



idea. “How about turning around and putting the profit back in?” he 
suggested. With returns like that, who could refuse? The deals were just 
too good to be true. 

Deals like the one Hofmann offered his old Utah State schoolmate, 
Thomas Wilding. 

Since working his way through college selling insurance, Wilding had 
developed a successful financial advisory service. As Hofmann's insurance 
agent, he saw just how lucrative the documents business was — Hofmann 
had increased his coverage to a quarter of a million. He saw the glowing 
newspaper accounts. He heard the dizzying rumors. It was high time, he 
decided, for his clients to get a piece of the action. 

The deal involved eighteen rare books that were coming into the U.S. 
from Germany through Schiller-Wapner in New York, one of the coun- 
try's most prestigious galleries dealing in rare books and documents. Hof- 
mann said he could purchase them for only $22,500 and sell them im- 
mediately for at least $40,000. “I already have buyers for some of the 
books,” he assured Wilding, mentioning Yale University, “but I need 
some funding in order to obtain the collection.” The bottom line was 
terrific — as good as Wilding had heard: 50 percent to 100 percent return 
over a few months. In addition, there was Hofmann's unbeatable track 
record. Wilding had known him for years, knew his wife, knew his par- 
ents, even knew his wife's parents. And if that wasn't enough, there was 
the additional security of Hofmann's “reputation with the LDS Church.” 
If ever there was a sure thing. . . . 

Of course, Wilding still wanted 200 percent collateral. 

On March 1 5, Hofmann gave him the collateral, in books, and he gave 
Hofmann checks totaling $22,500. 

Only a month later, Hofmann called with good news: he had sold the 
books already and Wilding’s group would get the full 100 percent return 
that Hofmann had predicted. Almost a hundred percent in one month ! 
Hofmann said he could take his profit or, if he preferred, reinvest it, or 
a part of it, in another, equally lucrative deal. Wilding decided to play it 
safe and let Hofmann have only half the profits, $8,750, to play with. The 
rest, $31,250, he wanted in cash. 

The same month, Hofmann offered another can't-miss deal to Ralph 
Bailey, a Salt Lake City orthodontist. 

“I need $40,000,” he said one day showing up unexpectedly in Bailey's 
office. “I have a hot deal in New York and need to get some money in 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 157 



a hurry. If you loan me the forty, in six months 111 pay you back fifty.” 

But that wasn't all. 

Again Hofmann was willing to offer double collateral — $80,000 worth 
for a $40,000 loan. All in rare books. 

“I want to see your bills of sale and invoices,” Bailey insisted. 

“No problem,” chimed Hofmann. 

The next day, he brought in the books. Bailey checked them off against 
the list: a Peter Rabbit, a first edition of Tom Sawyer inscribed by Twain 
to his close friend, Joe Twitchell, and, the star of the lot, a Call of the 
Wild by Jack London containing what book dealers called a “dream 
inscription”: from the author to one of his closest friends in words that 
cut to the core of the author's vision, “To Buck and his human friend 
Austin Lewis, who often said his dog is the best friend he knows of. In 
appreciation, Jack London.” Bailey cared more about the invoice than the 
inscription. When the inventory was finished, he wrote out a promissory 
note and carried the books to his vault. He couldn't wait to see what 
Hofmann would do with his $40,000. 

The deals just kept getting bigger and better. 

In May, Hofmann went back to Wilford Cardon in Arizona with 
the biggest and best deal yet. He had been offered a rare Charles Dick- 
ens manuscript, the original holograph of one of five Christmas stories 
written by Dickens and called “The Haunted Man.” Surely Cardon 
had heard of Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past and Tiny Tim. 
Well, this wasn’t quite that famous, but it was the last such manu- 
script in private hands and, as such, quite a treasure — a $300,000 trea- 
sure to be precise. Its credentials couldn’t have been better: formerly 
owned by the Carl H. Pforzheimer Foundation in New York and of- 
fered for sale by Justin Schiller of the Schiller-Wapner Galleries (for a 
10 percent commission). 

The deal was just like the one before: Cardon would put up one-third 
of the purchase price and reap one-third of the rewards. The only differ- 
ence was, this time his share wasn’t $6,000; it was $110,000. But the 
rewards would be commensurately spectacular, Hofmann assured him. 
There were already several collectors and institutions begging for a chance 
to bid on it. 

After Hofmann’s success with the Betsy Ross letter and the Jim Bridger 
notes, Cardon decided this, too, must be a winner. Mark had certainly 
proved he could pick them. It was reassuring to know that his former 
missionary, Shannon Flynn, had tied his star to someone as astute and 



158 THE MORMON MURDERS 



ambitious as Mark Hofmann. On June 5, Cardon wired $110,000 to 
Schiller-Wapner in New York. 

On May 9, 1985, Hofmann approached Thomas Wilding with the same 
deal. Same pitch: “Christmas Carol/' Scrooge, Tiny Tim, last manuscript 
in private hands, eager collectors, Pforzheimer Foundation, Schiller- 
Wapner, $300,000 (plus $30,000 commission). 

Like Cardon, Wilding wasn't a man to argue with success. But this was 
a lot of money, and he had some questions. He asked Hofmann if he could 
call the gallery in New York to verify some of the information. 

“No problem." 

With Mark listening in, Wilding called Schiller. He may not have been 
a documents dealer but he was a sharp businessman, and he knew what 
questions to ask. Why does the Pforzheimer Foundation want to sell it? 
Is the manuscript genuine? Is it in your possession? Is it really worth 
$300,000? What's its history? (Later, Wilding called around and asked 
about Schiller-Wapner. They checked out too.) 

This was the deal: Wilding would put up $160,000. Mark would put 
up the remaining $170,000. They would share the profits proportionately. 

“Are there any other investors involved?" Wilding asked at one point. 

“None," Hofmann avowed. 

Wilding insisted on collateral, of course, so Hofmann added to the store 
of books from the previous deal, providing the necessary invoices (most 
of them from Schiller-Wapner). In addition, Wilding insisted on a per- 
sonal guarantee from Hofmann to cover the $160,000. The money came 
from several investors and was either wired directly into Hofmann's ac- 
count or came in the form of cashier's checks. 

Hofmann did caution Wilding that a big-ticket item like this wouldn't 
sell overnight. “This will take some time," he said. “It's a major manu- 
script, and it has to be marketed properly." For Wilding, memories of 100 
percent return in one month would make the waiting a lot easier. 

In New York, Schiller and Wapner waited for the money as long as they 
could. Cardon had wired $1 10,000. But all they had received from Hof- 
mann was a check for $20,000. The money from Wilding must not have 
come through, they figured. In order not to lose the deal, they put up the 
remaining $170,000 themselves and purchased “The Haunted Man." 
Hofmann had promised to reimburse them. 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 1 59 



“I need $50,000, right away/' Hofmann seemed unusually 
anxious, Ralph Bailey thought, almost out of breath. 
When he saw him come into his office that day in May 
1985, Bailey was sure it meant good news, which to Bailey was a check. 
Great news was cash. It had been only a month since the $40,000 loan, 
but Bailey couldn't help thinking, maybe it hadn't taken as long as Mark 
thought for the deal to go through. At the mere prospect of 50 percent 
interest in one month , his heart leaped in anticipation. Now, Hofmann 
was before him again, begging for fifty thousand more. 

“I need it right away," he said, “because there are these ten Joseph 
Smith letters I want to buy that are being sold by a family back in New 
York. If I am there on time, I can buy them, and I can at least double 
my money." 

He was offering the same irresistible terms as before: 50 percent interest 
and double collateral. There were only two differences: this time it was 
Lyn Jacobs's book collection that went into the vault, and Bailey insisted 
on having a lawyer draw up the agreement. 

When Jacobs came by not long afterward to retrieve one of the books, 
a first-edition Descartes, so he could sell it, Bailey demanded $10,000 to 
make up the difference. Hofmann gave him a check. 

It bounced. 

Ralph Bailey was not a man to play games with, especially when 
money was involved. He called Hofmann's bank, Rocky Mountain 
State, and was told the account contained sufficient funds to cover the 
check. Determined to get his money immediately, Bailey jumped in his 
car and drove directly to the bank on 33rd South. When he got there, 
however, the bank officer refused to make the check good. The funds, 
apparently, had been withdrawn in the interim. Fuming, Bailey tried 
both of Hofmann's numbers but got only an answering machine. For 
lack of a live target, he tore into the machine: “Mark, you either get 
this check good in the next little while or I am going to turn it over to 
the police." 

Within five minutes, Hofmann was on the line. “I have made arrange- 
ments. They will take care of the check. Just take it back out there. I 




160 THE MORMON MURDERS 



apologize.” It was typical Mark, Bailey thought. Completely cool. Never 
angry. Always submissive and always apologetic. 

And, most important, the check was good. The deal was back on track. 
He couldn’t wait to see what Hofmann would do with his $90,000. 

Was Mark Hofmann losing his touch? 

By the spring of 1985, people were beginning to wonder openly. Al- 
ways hard to reach, Hofmann was now virtually incommunicado. De- 
spite having phones in both his car and his van, his numbers were per- 
petually out-of-service or disconnected. He seemed to change numbers 
as often as other businessmen changed shirts. His personal checks were 
considered worthless, and the fabled payoffs were taking longer and 
longer. 

For some strange reason, he wasn’t finding Gentile documents as prof- 
itable as Mormon documents. Perhaps the margins were slimmer. Or the 
competition rougher. Or astounding discoveries harder to come by. Old 
friends and customers in Utah began to wonder if maybe his overhead had 
gotten out of control — all those trips to New York, all those books at 
premium prices from Manhattan dealers. Wade Lillywhite of Deseret 
Book had seen Hofmann at the April book fair in New York, looking “on 
top of the world,” buying books and documents as if he were Malcolm 
Forbes. 

In the early days, he was strictly a K mart man. In New York, he would 
stay at the Empire Hotel on Broadway (sharing a room whenever possi- 
ble). Now he was laying down $1 5,000 cash for Motor Trend's “sports car 
of the year” and sending Shannon Flynn, at $1,000 dollars a day, to New 
York just to pick up some legal papers that could have been Federal 
Expressed. 

It was a sad but familiar story: good Mormon boy hits the bright lights, 
big city and can’t handle it. 

Some even began to suspect that all the glamour and high life might 
have shaken Mark’s testimony. They had heard about his breaking the 
“word of wisdom” and experimenting with alcohol, starting with mar- 
tinis — shaken, not stirred, because that’s how James Bond liked them. 
They had seen him ordering drinks in restaurants on trips to New York 
and loading up on mini-bottles during the flight home. The Lillywhites 
had come late to one of Mark’s hot-tub parties — a game of Mormon trivia 
followed by a jump in the tub — and saw empty wine bottles in the trash 
can! 

At the 1985 New Year’s Eve party given at the ward house, friends were 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 161 



surprised to see the reclusive Mark Hofmann sitting in a chair with five 
party horns in his mouth, bouncing up and down and blowing in time to 
the music. 

The good Mormons who knew Mark shook their heads. They recognized 
the pattern: as the testimony goes, so goes the bottom line. 

The only thing that would save him, both financially and spiritually, 
everyone agreed, was another big score, another brilliant bolt of Mormon 
luck. But what were the chances of that? 



On March 15, 1985, Hofmann called Justin Schiller in New 
York City. But you just left here, said Schiller, the high- 
strung owner of the Schiller-Wapner Galleries. Yes, said Hofmann, but 
in the interim something possibly very important has happened. Schiller, 
a shrewd, experienced dealer, had learned a certain respect for the disin- 
genuous choirboy from Utah, and he listened with interest to Hofmann’s 
strange tale. 

The day before he left, on March 13, he had been browsing in the 
second-floor broadside, or print, department of the Argosy Book Store 
on East 59th Street. As was his custom, he selected a few trifles from 
the chaos of old maps and etchings ripped out of old books: two old 
illustrations at $5 apiece, portrait etchings of George and Martha 
Washington ($12.50), and a broadside headed simply “Oath of a Free- 
man” ($25). 

Fortunately, when he took them to the cash register, he thought to ask 
for an itemized receipt. Total, with tax: $51.42. 

Later, on the plane back to Salt Lake City, he was flipping through the 
catalog for an upcoming auction of “Printed and Manuscript Americana” 
at Sotheby’s and happened to notice, under the caption for Lot 32 (a copy 
of John Child’s New England’s Jonas Cast Up in London, dated 1647, 
estimated price $1,500 to $2,000), a small footnote: 

The book also provides the earliest reprint of “The Freeman’s Oath,” the 
first issue of Stephen Daye’s Cambridge Press, of which no copy of the 
original survives. 




162 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Hey, Eve got something similar to that, Hofmann thought. Could it be? 

By now Schiller was so giddy he could hardly keep the receiver pressed 
to his ear. “God, Mark,” he yelped, “if you've got something like this, 
send it to me!” 

To Schiller's astonishment, Hofmann was nonchalant. “Well, when I 
get around to it.” 

If what he was hearing was true, Schiller had every reason to be giddy. 
The “Freeman's Oath” mentioned in the Sotheby's footnote was, in fact, 
the Holy Grail of printed Americana. It was nothing less than the first 
document printed in America — the first document printed in English in 
the Western Hemisphere. Dated 1639, it was also considered the earliest 
record of popular notions of freedom and democracy that would ulti- 
mately find expression 1 50 years later in the Declaration of Independence 
and Constitution. Of course, there probably were earlier printed broad- 
sides — the form was all the rage in the early colonies — but no records of 
them existed. This was the only one that experts knew , to a certainty, had 
been printed. It predated by a year the famous Bay Psalm Book , also 
printed by Stephen Daye’s Cambridge Press, of which only ten copies 
were known to exist. 

Hofmann had done it again. This was, without doubt, the American 
antiquarian's dream. When Wade Lillywhite found out about it, he was 
beside himself. He had been in the Argosy Book Store not one hour before 
Hofmann, sifting through the same bins. “How can it be? Why him, of 
all people? He's made lots of terrific discoveries. Why does he have to 
discover it? Why not me?” It seemed all the stranger because Hofmann 
was a manuscript person, not a print person. “How could he look at that 
and know what it was?” Lillywhite wondered. '7 wouldn’t have known 
what it was.” 

(A police investigator later commented on the extraordinary coinci- 
dence: “It was as if you had never heard of the Holy Grail. Then one 
Sunday you go to a garage sale and you find a little silver chalice or pewter 
cup and you say, 'Hey, far out!' So you pick it up. You also pick up an 
old Sotheby's catalog. Then on the way home, you're reading through the 
catalog and you find a notice to the effect that the Holy Grail was lost 
in whatever a.d. And basically it looks precisely like the item you just 
picked up. You say, 'Goddam! I just bought that this morning at the 
garage sale!' ”) 

Two weeks after reporting his discovery to Schiller, Hofmann flew back 
to New York with the document. It should have been a triumphant 
return, but he could barely keep his eyes open. He had been up all the 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 163 



previous night, working in his basement office, and left for the airport at 
four that morning. Dorie knew better than to ask why, on the eve of such 
an important trip, he felt the need to spend all night in the room down- 
stairs that she was never allowed to enter. 

From the airport, he went directly to the Argosy Book Store and sought 
out the woman who had been at the cash register two weeks before. He 
showed her a photocopy of the “Oath of a Freeman” and the receipt. 

“Oh, yes. I recognize that,” she said. 

Hofmann looked a little surprised. “You know this is a very valuable 
item. The first item ever printed in America was the 'Oath of a Freeman,' 
and this might be the first one.” 

She looked at him with friendly, vacant eyes. “That's nice. You know, 
other people have found some pretty valuable things here too.” 

At the Schiller-Wapner Galleries, the reaction was very different. They 
had invited Michael Zinman, a self-described “big punter” in early 
Americana to the meeting and to inspect the document. Zinman, the 
CEO of Earthworm, a manufacturer of earthmoving and construction 
machinery, had bought the New England's Jonas at the Sotheby's auc- 
tion, and afterward Schiller had called him. “I have the Holy Grail,” he 
intoned, “the 'Oath of a Freeman.' The fruit of a ten-year-long search.” 
Zinman could hardly believe his ears. He drove to New York that very 
evening. 

Over dinner, the group talked about just how valuable the discovery 
would be if it turned out to be genuine. Hofmann suggested maybe it was 
worth $20,000 to $50,000. Zinman said that was crazy. A forgery would 
be worth more than that just as a curiosity. Zinman had toyed with the 
idea of buying a copy of the Bay Psalm Book and “couldn’t touch it” for 
$1.2 million. “That 'Oath' may only be a single page, but it's unique,” 
he said. “It could be worth $1 million. Who knows?” 

After comparing it with the copy of the Bay Psalm Book at the New 
York Public Library, Schiller sent the “Oath” off to the most likely buyer, 
the Library of Congress, on April 8. The price tag: $1.5 million. Schiller 
explained to Hofmann that the response would take time. “They'll want 
to run some tests first.” 



164 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Hofmann couldn’t wait for tests. He needed money, and he 
needed it now. So he went back to what he knew best, 
Mormon documents. 

Fortunately, he hadn’t lost his touch. 

“It’s twenty times more valuable than anything purchased before,” he 
told A1 Rust, uncharacteristically breathless with excitement. “It’s the 
most extensive and significant collection ever found.” 

Hofmann had good reason to be excited. He had found the fabled 
McLellin Collection. 

The very name was enough to strike terror in the hearts of devout 
Mormons. William E. McLellin was an early Apostle and close associ- 
ate of Joseph Smith’s who left the Church in 1836 to become one of 
its bitterest critics. It had long been rumored that McLellin, who kept 
the minutes at early meetings of the Twelve, had taken with him a 
pirate’s chest full of papers, letters, and journals, all of it incriminating, 
with which to destroy the Church. Over the years, tantalizing clues 
had turned up. But neither the Collection itself, nor any part of it, had 
ever surfaced. Until now. 

“It includes at least fifteen or twenty letters that are very valuable and 
very collectible items,” Hofmann continued. “There will be great demand 
for the material. It’s much more important than the Lucy Mack Smith 
letter or the Joseph Smith III blessing.” Rust had put up $10,000 toward 
each of those. But an entire collection of documents was much more 
valuable than a single letter from the Prophet’s mother or even the 
Prophet himself. “To give you an idea, it’s probably ten times as impor- 
tant as the Lucy Mack Smith letter.” With numbers like that, Hofmann 
must have thought, who wouldn’t be dazzled? 

But Rust had only one question. 

“Is it anti-Mormon?” He had heard of William McLellin, infamous 
apostate, reviler of Joseph Smith. “If it’s anti, then I’m not interested.” 

“Oh, no,” Hofmann reassured him, “not a bit. This is gonna have a 
lot of early writings of Joseph Smith and a lot of the early history of the 
Church. It’s a significant collection, a big collection. There’s also a facsim- 




TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 165 



ilc from the Book of Abraham. Two or three boxes of material. What i 
want to do is bring it back to Salt Lake, then well sort it out, and then 
we can dispose of it piece by piece/’ 

Rust had another question. 

“How much money are we talking about?” 

“The whole Collection should cost about $180,000.” 

Rust didn’t believe he had heard right. The most he had ever put into 
one of Mark’s deals was $40,000. “Boy, that is a lot of money.” Then he 
remembered Hofmann’s reputation. If he could turn little money into big 
money, what could he do with big money? He began to calculate how long 
it would take him to get a second mortgage on his house. “How do you 
think it would work out?” 

“I believe the Collection is worth $300,000 to $500,000.” The split 
would be fifty-fifty. 

“How long would it take before we’d recover our money?” Rust was 
hooked. 

“We can get our money out in thirty days,” Hofmann said. He was all 
business now, like a Thoroughbred on the backstretch. “Or we can dispose 
of it slow and get a considerably bigger profit. A lot of people will be 
interested in the material.” He paused for effect. “Especially people in the 
Church.” 

“Where is the Collection now?” 

“In New York.” 

“I would want my son, Gaylen, to go with you when you pick it up.” 
The deal was already complete. Rust was talking details now. 

Hofmann looked at Gaylen Rust, a sandy-haired, round-faced, ener- 
getic young man, too extroverted for the claustrophobic profession of coin 
dealing — his real passion was horse racing — who had been following the 
discussion. 

“Okay,” said Hofmann. 

“I want you to take a cashier’s check and go together, take briefcases, 
and put the most valuable things in briefcases and then hand-carry them 
back and ship the excess back to my store. We’ll inventory all of it here, 
and then we’ll dispose of it. Instead of you just having it all to your own 
person.” 

“No problem.” 

For the first time in all their dealings, Rust also wanted some kind of 
security. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Mark. It was just such a large 
amount of money. Besides, Hofmann already owed him $100,000 on 
several earlier transactions, including the Joseph Smith III blessing and 



166 THE MORMON MURDERS 



the Lucy Mack Smith letter. 'To go in on this big a deal, given what you 
owe me, I want some collateral, too, for coverage/' 

"No problem," said Hofmann. "I've got all kinds of collateral. I can put 
two or three hundred thousand in there for collateral." 

"I'd feel comfortable if you'd put in a hundred and fifty anyway, since 
that's about what you owe me." Unlike Wilding and Bailey, Rust 
wouldn't demand double collateral. All he wanted was protection for the 
new investment. 

Hofmann was a picture of cooperativeness. "Let's do it now.” 

Together, the two men walked across the street to Zion's First National 
Bank and rented a joint safe-deposit box. Later, Hofmann brought in 
some documents to serve as collateral. It was an impressive list: an Abra- 
ham Lincoln document, a letter signed by Daniel Boone, another one by 
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 

But it didn’t add up to $150,000. 

Rust tried to be diplomatic. "If you want to bring in any other collat- 
eral," he said kindly, "I’d appreciate it. Because there is such a large 
amount outstanding, I feel a little uncomfortable." 

"No problem,” said Hofmann. 

Soon afterward, he bounded into the coin shop with a stack of 
books. "Hey, let's go over now and put them in our safe-deposit box." 
He made it sound like fun. Rust offered to put them under both names 
so that if a buyer wanted one, Mark could get at it without Rust's 
signature. "Just let me know where it went and how much you got for 
it. Then bring me the money." He took Hofmann's word on the value 
of each item. "I wouldn't know if a book was worth a dollar or a thou- 
sand," he muttered to himself as Hofmann held up a book and said, 
"Twenty-five thousand." When they were done stashing the hoard, 
Hofmann turned to him and said with a satisfied smile, "There's about 
$125,000 worth of books in there." Rust accepted the number on 
faith. When Hofmann tried to hand him an itemized list, he waved it 
away. "Just leave it in the box. 1 can tell if you get in by the signature 
on the card." 

"I won't be getting in there," Mark reassured him. 

Hofmann came back to the shop on Wednesday, April 23. He seemed 
unusually agitated. 

"Where's your dad?" he asked Gaylen Rust, who was manning the 
counter in front of the glass cases, which displayed coins from all over the 
world. 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 167 



“It's his day off,” said Gaylen. Strange, he thought. Mark knew that 
his father was never in the office on Wednesdays. 

Hofmann was pacing a hole in the floor. “We need to go to New York 
immediately,” he said. “We've got to get the McLellin Collection now!” 
Gaylen had heard that Hofmann would take off on a cross-country trip 
at a moment’s notice. 

“Okay.” 

“Have you got the check?” Hofmann asked impatiently. There was no 
question what he meant: the $185,000 check that Rust was putting up 
for the Collection. Since their last conversation, the second mortgage had 
come through. 

“I'll have to go get it,” Gaylen said, calling first the bank, which agreed 
to have the check ready in thirty minutes, and then his wife, who agreed 
to pack his bags for him. 

When Gaylen returned from the bank with the check, he gave it to 
Hofmann while he drove home to pick up his bag. “Hang on to this,” he 
said as he ran out the door, forgetting in his haste his father's instructions: 
“Keep your hands on this check until the last possible moment.” 

On the plane, Hofmann mentioned to Gaylen a “major document” 
that he was selling to the government. He wouldn't give details. He just 
wanted Gaylen to know that he had some other business to transact in 
New York. Also, Dorie would be joining them the next day. 

That night, Hofmann met with Lyn Jacobs, who had come down from 
Boston. 

The next morning, Gaylen listened as Hofmann placed a call from the 
hotel room they were sharing at the Sheraton Centre on Seventh Avenue. 
It was about their appointment to pick up the McLellin Collection. As 
soon as he hung up, he began rushing around the room. “I've got to go 
right over and meet these people. They told me they don't want anyone 
else with me while I finalize the details of the transaction. So just stay here 
and sit tight. I'll call you when we finish, and you can come meet us at 
the bank when they hand over the boxes.” 

Gaylen sat in the room all morning, nervously watching television, 
reading his racehorse magazines, and waiting for the phone to ring. 
Several times, he called the front desk. “Are you sure no one has tried to 
get through to me?” No one had. 

Finally, Hofmann called. “The deal's been postponed till tomorrow. 
These people had another commitment. They had to leave before every- 
thing got settled, so we'll consummate it tomorrow morning.” 

That afternoon, they took care of separate business. Gaylen met with 



168 THE MORMON MURDERS 



the comedian Dorn DeLuise to sell him some coins he had requested. 

The next morning, Gaylen, who had taken a separate room in anticipa- 
tion of Dorie’s arrival, went to Hofmann's room to plan the day’s strategy. 
On the door was a note in Hofmann's scrawled handwriting: the sellers 
had called early. They needed to meet him right away. No time to wake 
Gaylen. Mark would call as soon as he could. 

Gaylen spent another tense morning waiting for the phone to ring. It 
never did. Hours later, Hofmann knocked at the door. 

"It's already done,” he said. 

“Everything?” 

“Everything.” He wanted to go to the book fair this afternoon, so he 
wrapped up everything at one time. “Anyway, the whole thing went very 
smoothly.” 

“Where is the Collection?” Now it was Gaylen's turn to be agitated 
as he pondered what his father would think of this comedy of errors. 

“I went directly to the post office and sent all three boxes by registered 
mail.” Hofmann showed him three receipts from the post office. They 
were made out to Hofmann’s home in Salt Lake City, not to A1 Rust's 
coin shop. 

“Why didn't you send it to Dad?” Agitation was turning to anger. 

“At the time, I just felt it was better to send the stuff to myself.” Gaylen 
didn't look convinced. “Don't worry. Each package is insured for $75,000, 
so we're covered. If anything happens, we'll get our money back.” 

Other questions raced through Gaylen's mind. How could Hofmann 
have made the deal, checked the materials, boxed them up, taken them 
to the post office, and shipped them in the six hours he had been gone? 
Where were the important documents they were supposed to hand-carry 
back? It was too late to ask, he decided. “I guess that's all right,” he finally 
said, although he knew it wasn't. 

He began to feel a little better about Hofmann later that day at the 
book fair. It seemed as if everybody knew him and respected him. People 
brought him documents and rare books to look at, not junk, of which there 
was an abundance, but the rare, unusual pieces. Gaylen asked him why. 
“There's always going to be a buyer for the important collection or the 
major find,” Hofmann said. “It's the unimportant stuff that's hard to 
unload.” He was in his element, Gaylen thought, sharp, impressive, on 
his game. He must have known what he was doing that morning. 

A1 Rust didn’t think so. When Gaylen called him after the fair and told 
him the story, he could barely restrain his uncharacteristic rage. “I don't 
like it at all. There was no legitimate reason to vary from our accepted 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 169 

plan.” He tried not to blame his son. He himself had had trouble handling 
Mark Hofmann. 

W hen they returned to Salt Lake City the following Saturday, Hof- 
mann told Gaylen, “I’ll be into your dad’s store on Monday morning with 
the boxes.” 

Monday came, but Hofmann didn’t. 

They managed to reach him by phone. “The boxes haven’t arrived yet,” 
he told them. 

Tuesday and Wednesday came and went. 

Thursday. Rust couldn’t stand it any longer. WHien he couldn’t raise 
Hofmann on the phone, he drove to his house in Millcreek. Dorie spoke 
to him through the screen door. “Mark’s not here. I don’t know where 
he’s gone.” Rust couldn’t help himself. He yelled at her. W^hen she started 
to cry, he castigated himself and apologized. 

That evening, Mark called. “I sold the McLellin Collection,” he an- 
nounced triumphantly. 

Rust’s fury disappeared. A gain of more than 50 percent in one week! 
WOio bought it? he wanted to know. 

Hofmann’s voice dropped to a whisper. “The Church.” 



Hofmann went straight to Gordon Hinckley’s office with his 
latest and most ambitious proposition: If the Church paid 
him $185,000, he would give them the McLellin Collection. In the 
gravest tones, he described the materials it contained — a treasure trove of 
early Church history, all of it, in Hofmann’s tactful phrase, “impactful.” 
Diaries, journals, Joseph Smith letters — a Pandora’s box of new and un- 
known firsthand materials that would make the Salamander Letter sound 
like a Sunday-school testimonial. 

Hofmann had every reason to believe Hinckley would bite. It had 
not been a good year for the Church’s public relations wizard. The bad 
news started in February, when the first reports on the authenticity of 
the Salamander Letter began to come in. Kenneth Rendell, the Massa- 
chusetts documents dealer, wrote that the ink had passed the ultravio- 
let tests with flying colors, that the machine-ruled paper was the same 




170 THE MORMON MURDERS 



as that being manufactured at a paper mill near Palmyra in 1835, and 
that the tear in the seal, the fold in the paper, and the postmark all 
passed muster. 

Rendell was more circumspect about the handwriting, but only because 
there were no samples of Martin Harris's handwriting to use for compari- 
son. The signature looked genuine. There were no signs of tracing. “It is 
my conclusion," wrote Rendell, “based upon all of this evidence, as well 
as the ink and paper tests undertaken independently of me, that there is 
no indication that this letter is a forgery." 

Independent analysis of the ink and paper by two more experts con- 
firmed Rendell's assessment. The ink was of the iron gallotannic type 
commonly used at the time. Their conclusion: “There is no evidence to 
suggest that the examined document was prepared at other than during 
the stated time period." 

Steve Christensen wrote Hinckley with the “bad" news on February 
26. He also gently tested to see if Hinckley would be willing to release him 
from the promise to give the document to the Church. The financial 
debacle at CFS had taken its toll on his personal finances. After his 
argument with Gary Sheets, he had left the company to set up his own 
consulting firm with his friend Randy Rigby. It would be months before 
any income started coming in, and even when it did, he would still owe 
literally millions to CFS creditors, since he was one of the officers who 
had personally guaranteed CFS projects. The sale of the document, Chris- 
tensen wrote Hinckley, “would be most welcome in assisting me with the 
reduction of some extremely heavy short-term debt." But if Hinckley still 
wanted the document, Christensen was willing to donate it and “trust in 
the Lord to assist me in my financial affairs." 

Hinckley still wanted it. 

Three days after Christensen's plea arrived, Hinckley called and told 
him that, whatever his personal problems, “that letter belongs to the 
Church/' 

Christensen dutifully donated the document, and on April 18, the 
Church officially acknowledged the gift in a letter signed by Hinckley, 
Marion Romney, and the Prophet himself, Spencer Kimball. According 
to the letter, the document had “been placed in the archives of the First 
Presidency." 

On April 28, more than a year after the first leaks, the Church officially 
released the Salamander Letter to the public. The ten-day delay was 
needed to word a statement as carefully (some would say deceptively) as 
possible: 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 171 



A letter purportedly written by Martin Harris to W. W. Phelps was 
recently presented to the Church by Steven F. Christensen, its owner. The 
document is dated Palmyra, October 23, 1830, and has been the subject of 
much discussion and research. . . . 

The original has been placed in the archives of the First Presidency as 
another appreciated addition to documents and artifacts dating back to the 
early history of the Church. 

President Gordon B. Hinckley, Second Counselor in the First Presi- 
dency, who accepted the letter, stated: “No one, of course, can be certain 
that Martin Harris wrote the document. However, at this point we accept 
the judgment of the examiner that there is no indication that it is a forgery. 
This does not preclude the possibility that it may have been forged at a time 
when the Church had many enemies. It is, however, an interesting docu- 
ment of the times. Actually the letter has nothing to do with the authentic- 
ity of the Church. The real test of the faith which both Martin Harris and 
W. W. Phelps had in Joseph Smith and his work is found in their lives, in 
the sacrifices they made for their membership in the Church, and in the 
testimonies which they bore to the end of their lives. . . ." 

(Actually, Harris bore a testimony at the end of his life, not to the end 
of his life, having left the Church for much of his adulthood and earned 
Joseph Smith's condemnation as a “wicked man." But these were mere 
quibbles.) 

If Hinckley thought that was the end of it, he was catastrophically 
mistaken. He had succeeded in killing the book that Christensen and his 
team were planning, but neither the newspapers nor liberal Mormon 
intellectuals would let the matter rest. Far worse was yet to come. 

On April 29, Dawn Tracy, who had moved to the Salt Lake Tribune , 
reported that a “letter reportedly written by Mormon Church founder 
Joseph Smith describing money-digging pursuits and treasure guarded by 
a clever spirit seems to have disappeared from view. . . It was clearly 
a reference to the Josiah Stowell letter, written by Joseph Smith in 1825, 
that Mark Hofmann had sold to Hinckley back in January 1983. Hinckley 
couldn't have been surprised by speculation about the document's exis- 
tence. A purported transcript of the letter had been circulating in the 
underground for at least a year. But he must have been surprised, alarmed 
in fact, by something else in Tracy's article: “Research historian Brent 
Metcalfe said he knows from Very reliable, first-hand sources' the letter 
exists, and the Mormon Church has possession of it." 

With its references to treasures guarded by clever spirits and hazel 
sticks, Joseph Smith's letter to Josiah Stowell confirmed all the worst 



172 THE MORMON MURDERS 



money-digging and folk magic implications of the Martin Harris Salaman- 
der Letter — in short, everything the Church had been trying to play 
down. At first, Church spokesman Jerry Cahill vehemently denied the 
accusation: “The Church doesn’t have the letter,” he told Tracy. “It’s not 
in the Church archives or the First Presidency’s vault.” When someone 
suggested that Cahill was playing semantic games — “If the exact question 
isn’t asked, someone can wink and say the Church doesn’t have it” — 
Cahill reiterated, “No, the Church does not have possession of the letter.” 

But Hinckley was trapped. With the rumors flying, photocopies cir- 
culating, and the Los Angeles Times set to publish an extensive article 
(with a copy of the letter), he had no choice but to go public. On May 
9, 1985, the Church released a statement by the First Presidency: “We 
have acquired a letter presumably written by Joseph Smith. . . .” The next 
day, the Deseret News announced the discovery of “the earliest known 
surviving document written by Joseph Smith Jr. . . . The letter, believed 
by church leaders to be authentic, was written June 18, 1825, five years 
before the church was organized.” 

Jerry Cahill took the fall. In a letter to the editor of the Tribune , he 
acknowledged that his earlier denials had been “in error.” The real hero 
of the story? Gordon B. Hinckley. It was Hinckley, according to Cahill’s 
mea culpa, who insisted on getting the correct story before the public. 
“When my published statement came to his attention, President Gordon 
B. Hinckley of the First Presidency of the church informed me of my 
error.” Both the Church news release and Cahill’s letter carefully avoided 
mentioning that the Stowell document had been sitting in the First 
Presidency vault for two years. 

Throughout the P.R. ordeal, Hinckley had to wonder who had gotten 
him into this fine mess. Who was Brent Metcalfe’s “very reliable, first- 
hand source” who had brought the hounds of the press to his door yet 
again? Who else knew that the Church possessed the Stowell letter 
besides himself, his secretary, Francis Gibbons, G. Homer Durham — and 
Mark Hofmann? 

Coincidentally, the day the letter was announced in the papers was the 
day Hofmann came to see him. 

Whether he was fuming over the leak or fed up with documents dealing 
altogether, Hinckley didn’t say. He apparently wasn’t about to give Hof- 
mann the pleasure of betraying such temporal emotions. What he did say 
was, in effect, “go fish.” He wanted nothing to do with the documents 
or with Mark Hofmann. Once burned . . . 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 173 



Hofmann was stunned. Nothing he said about the sensitivity of the 
documents seemed to make any difference. It would take something more 
than one little embarrassment in the press to shake Hinckley's confidence 
in the true Church. 



After the meeting with Hinckley, Hofmann met Brent 
Metcalfe for lunch at the Crown Burger near his house. 
Metcalfe had only recently started work as a “researcher" for Hofmann, 
locating descendants of prominent historical figures to see if they could 
provide any grist for his boss's documents mill. Both men knew it was 
more a favor than a real job. (Hofmann didn't seem to need any help 
finding documents.) After his severance pay from CFS ran out, and a 
six-month stint as a researcher ended, Metcalfe was badly in need of other 
employment. Hofmann agreed to pay him $2,000 a month and 20 percent 
of the profit from any documents that turned up as a result of Metcalfe's 
research. 

While they waited for their burgers, Metcalfe wanted to know, 
“What's the juiciest thing you've ever seen in The Vault?" (Hofmann had 
often bragged to him before about seeing unknown documents there.) 
Metcalfe, he knew, was obsessed with the Church's secrets, and, for that 
matter, any tidbit of information that he could pass along to the Mormon 
underground. 

Hofmann smiled. He seemed almost amused. Metcalfe wasn't the first 
person to notice that the more outrageous Mark's discoveries, the more 
furor they stirred up, the more amused he seemed to get. He explained 
it as professional detachment. He was only interested in history, and he 
couldn't understand why the truth should rattle so many cages. 

Hofmann described a meeting with Hinckley at which he asked if there 
were any other accounts resembling the Salamander Letter in the 
Church's archives. Hinckley reportedly sent his secretary to fetch a docu- 
ment from the First Presidency archives and showed it to Hofmann. It 
was the Oliver Cowdery history. 

Metcalfe nearly jumped out of his chair. He remembered the footnote 
in a book by Joseph Fielding Smith about an early history of the Church 
written by Cowdery, the Church's first historian. Smith had even in- 




174 THE MORMON MURDERS 



dicated that the history was in the possession of the Church, but, until 
now, it had been just another of the many myths locked away in The 
Vault. A year ago, Hofmann had said he thought it existed, but now he 
was saying he had actually seen it. 

Hofmann was into the story now, savoring the surreptitiousness of it 
as well as Metcalfe's breathless attention. If the Oliver Cowdery history 
should ever leak, he said, it would really shake some testimonies. Accord- 
ing to Cowdery's account, it wasn't Joseph Smith who first discovered the 
gold plates, it was his brother , Alvin. It was only after Alvin died (from 
eating too many green turnips) that Joseph retrieved the plates and began 
translating them. In other words, there was no First Vision] 

Metcalfe couldn't believe his ears. He himself had dug up some persua- 
sive evidence that Alvin played a more significant role in the founding of 
the Church than most people thought, but this was confirmation. He 
couldn't have found better proof, he thought, if he had made it up 
himself. 

Metcalfe wanted more. He always wanted more. 

The Cowdery history also mentioned a salamander that appeared three 
times, once to Alvin, twice to Joseph, according to Hofmann, confirming 
the story told in the Martin Harris letter. 

Hofmann later said that he swore Metcalfe to secrecy. Metcalfe 
remembered only that Mark had told him, “You can tell other people 
about this, just as long as you don't tell anyone where the information 
came from." Given Metcalfe's irrepressible enthusiasm for secrets, it 
amounted to the same thing. 

As Hofmann must have foreseen, Metcalfe went straight to Dawn Tracy 
at the Salt Lake Tribune. A few days later, May 15, Gordon Hinckley had 
another little embarrassment to explain at the next meeting of the 
Twelve: 



RESEARCHER SAYS LDS HISTORY 
DISPUTES GOLDEN PLATES STORY 

A little-known history written by an important early 
Mormon leader contains an account of Joseph Smith's 
brother Alvin finding the gold plates, rather than the 
Mormon prophet himself, according to a research his- 
torian. . . . 

Brent Metcalfe, who worked on authenticating an 
earlier Mormon letter, said officials of the Church of 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 175 



Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the history, 
written by Oliver Cowdery, who at one time was sec- 
ond in importance only to Joseph Smith. . . . 

Mr. Metcalfe said his source is a private eyewitness 
account of the Cowdery history. The document tells 
of Joseph Smith's brother Alvin first finding the gold 
plates by means of a stone, according to Mr. Metcalfe. 

Mr. Metcalfe quoted the document as saying: “A 
taunting Salamander appears to Alvin and prevents 
him and his companions from digging up the gold 
plates." 

Early Mormon letters, recently released by LDS 
Church officials, link Joseph Smith to folk magic and 
to an “old spirit" that commanded Mr. Smith to re- 
turn with his brother Alvin, who was dead at the time. 

This time, when asked about the report, Jerry Cahill hedged his answer. 
“The LDS Historical Department does not have the Cowdery history," 
he said, but he refused to inquire if the document was in the “special 
presidency's vault." In what sounded suspiciously like a nondenial denial, 
he told the Tribune , “I have no idea if the history is there, nor do I intend 
to ask. I can't have my life ordered about by rumors. Where does it end?" 

It certainly didn’t end there. 

On May 17, in an interview with KUER radio, Metcalfe repeated the 
stunning revelations contained in the Cowdery version, that “it was, in 
fact, Alvin who first discovered the gold plates and not Joseph Smith. And 
that at the time of the death of Alvin in November of 1823, Joseph Smith 
then takes over as the seer who then proceeds to try to break the enchant- 
ment to get the plates. . . ." 

Have you seen this document? the interviewer asked. 

“I have not, no. No, I have not seen the Cowdery history, but I did 
come across a source in which a person was recording his reading of the 
document." 

“And this is a current source?" 

“Yes, [a] current source." 

“Would you like to name that source?" 

“No ... all I can say is that it’s an extremely reliable source and I know, 
personally I know of no other sources that are more reliable than this one." 

Just as this newest crisis was filling the local papers, the last one over 
the Stowell letter broke in the national media. Both the Los Angeles 
Times and Time magazine chastised the Church for trying to suppress 



176 THE MORMON MURDERS 



its own history. Said Time archly: “The church offered no explanation for 
withholding news of the earliest extant document written by Smith/' The 
anti-Mormons were having a field day. In the Messenger ; the Tanners 
accused the Church of a “cover-up situation . . . reminiscent of the 
Watergate scandal/ 7 The inevitable term, “Salamandergate, 77 made the 
rounds. 

It was fast becoming yet another public relations debacle. 

And just when Hinckley may have thought the worst was over — that 
there were no more bombshells out there waiting to go off — a letter, dated 
May 22, arrived from Steve Christensen. 

In light of the recent disclosures, Christensen thought he'd better let 
Hinckley in on yet another skeleton in the Church's closet: an “Articles 
of Agreement" dated November 1, 1825, and signed by Joseph Smith and 
Josiah Stowell. Confirming the Glass Looker trial record, this document 
virtually proved the allegation that Joseph Smith was engaged in money 
digging for fun and profit at the time of the discovery of the gold plates. 
Christensen was clear about his reason for writing. “Those enemies of the 
Church who would do us harm by leaning upon the crutch of magic and 
occultism being involved in the early beginnings of the Church do not 
give due credit to the way in which this activity was perceived in Joseph 
Smith's day." 

Just in case Hinckley missed the point, Christensen added, “Please rest 
assured that it is not my intention to make public the existence of this 
legal document." 

That assurance might have offered Hinckley more comfort if Chris- 
tensen hadn't also mentioned who gave him a copy of the agreement in 
the first place: Mark Hofmann. 

The next time Hofmann appeared in his office, Hinckley was ready to 
listen. 

Hofmann painted a bleak picture. Unless he found $185,000 im- 
mediately, the McLellin Collection would fall into the hands of “the 
enemy." The result would be a public relations disaster of epic propor- 
tions, press so bad that the Salamander Letter would look like a release 
from the First Presidency, so bad that the last few months would look 
like the good old days. He repeated that he hadn't wanted things to 
happen this way, that he had planned all along for the Church to ob- 
tain the Collection. 

But now the clock was ticking off precious seconds. The Collection was 
in the hands of a nonmember, and worse yet, an anti-Mormon. He 
wouldn't sell to the Church, but he would sell to Hofmann. The deal 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 177 



could be “wrapped up” for $195,000 (of which he had already put up a 
$10,000 down payment). All he needed was the balance of $185,000. He 
had found an investor in Salt Lake City to put up some of the money, 
but now that investor was getting cold feet and wanted to pull his money 
out. If Hofmann couldn’t find the money, the deal would slip through his 
hands — and into those of the enemy. 

They were out there too. Hofmann named them: Wesley Walters and 
George Smith, both “notorious anti-Mormons,” according to Hofmann. 
They both knew of the Collection, he warned, and were hot on its trail. 
If he didn’t consummate the deal, one of them would. 

It was the eleventh hour. 

When Hinckley started to play “the game,” Hofmann knew he had him 
hooked. They had played the game before. Hofmann wouldn’t tell him 
any details about the contents of documents; he would wait for Hinckley 
to ask. That way Hinckley didn’t have to know more than he wanted to 
know. Hofmann told friends it was a technique they had developed, 
without ever discussing it, for protecting Hinckley, in case he was ever 
questioned. 

“Did you know that the McLellin Collection contained such-and-such, 
President Hinckley?” 

“No, I did not.” 

“Did Hofmann discuss such-and-such with you?” 

“No, he did not.” 

Deniability. It was a lawyerly trick, but these were lawyerly times. 

Hofmann suggested that the Church come up with the money. 

No, said Hinckley. It was better that the Collection not come to the 
Church. Too dangerous for the Church to take actual possession. 

Deniability. 

Now that the anti-Mormons were on to it, there was no point in trying 
to keep its existence a secret. The only thing to do now was to ensure that 
it didn’t fall into the wrong hands. 

According to Hofmann’s account, Hinckley then suggested the Steve 
Christensen solution: find a wealthy devout Mormon to buy the Collec- 
tion, sit on it, and then, when the commotion died down, donate it. 

Christensen was out because of his financial problems, but Hofmann 
had another suggestion: Wilford Cardon in Arizona. 

Hinckley agreed. “Go take care of your investor, and then we’ll talk.” 
If there’s a problem, he added as Hofmann left, if things really get 
desperate and you need money, let me know. 

Hofmann thanked him. 



178 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Meanwhile, A1 Rust waited for his money. 

Not that he was really worried. “The Collection is in tn^ 
hands of the Church/' he told himself over and over, “and nothing can 
happen to it there." 

When he pressed Hofmann for an update, it was always the same story: 
“Don't worry. Everything’s fine." And then the inevitable warning: “Just 
remember, we've got to keep it quiet. The Church doesn't want this out. 
Only a few people in the hierarchy know, and they don't want outsiders 
coming in and asking to see the materials.” Rust could understand that. 
Like everybody else, he had been following with dismay the damaging 
revelations in the papers. As a good Mormon, the last thing he wanted 
to do was cause the Church another embarrassment. 

Three weeks later, Hofmann called with bad news. “We have a big 
problem,” he began ominously. “The Church doesn't want to buy the 
Collection." 

Rust felt the old anger returning. 

“The Church doesn't want to get personally involved with this Collec- 
tion. They said that if they bought the Collection, it would get out to the 
public and they'll have the entire public coming to them and asking to 
see the contents." 

Could anything be done to salvage the deal? 

“We've had to change plans.” Rust knew who “we" referred to. He had 
heard Hofmann talk often about his close working relationship with 
Gordon Hinckley. “We've had to find a private collector to buy the 
Collection and donate it to the Church. That way the Church doesn't 
have to say it bought the Collection. They don't want to put any money 
out so that they won't have anybody questioning them about it. We found 
a private collector in Texas who is willing to buy the Collection and then 
donate it to the Church.” 

Mark ended with his usual urgent injunction: “You've got to remember 
that all this needs to remain confidential. Do not tell a soul. Do not call 
anybody. Do not do anything." 

But the patience of even a patient man has its limits. Finally, Rust 
decided to write President Hinckley directly. There couldn't be any harm 
in contacting someone who already knew. 




TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 179 



Before proceeding, however, he wanted to give Hofmann one last 
chance. “I need to see you in my store tomorrow/' he told Mark on the 
phone. “We've got to settle some things." 

Hofmann said he'd be there. 

He wasn't. 

Rust drove to Mark's house to give him another last chance. Dorie 
answered the door, looking unusually weary and disheveled. 

“Mark's in New York," she said. 

Rust was dumbstruck. “I can't believe that. We had an appointment 
to meet." 

Dorie looked at him with her utterly vacant eyes. It was a willful 
stupidity, Rust concluded, too convenient to be real. “Oh, he had to go 
to New York." 

Rust couldn't help himself. He began to yell. “If he calls, you tell him 
Eve had it. I can't hold back any longer. I am going to the LDS Church 
tomorrow morning." 

The next morning, he called Hinckley's office. 

Mark Hofmann bragged that he could reach President Hinckley anytime. 
He even bragged that he could reach Hinckley immediately when he was 
out of the state. But could A1 Rust? Even after years as a tour guide on 
Temple Square and a lifetime of loyalty and tithing? 

Hinckley’s secretary put him on hold, then, a minute later, came back 
on to say, “President Hinckley has indicated that you should write it all 
down on a piece of paper and hand-deliver it to his office." 

So A1 Rust wrote President Gordon B. Hinckley a letter. In it, he 
requested a meeting with Hinckley and Hofmann for the purpose 
of straightening out some questions in regard to the McLellin Collec- 
tion. Nothing pushy, nothing confrontational. He came as a suppli- 
cant. 

The next day he went to deliver the letter to Hinckley's office but got 
no farther than the security desk. Mark Hofmann could drop in on 
President Hinckley anytime, without an appointment, but not A1 Rust. 
“I have this letter for President Hinckley," he told them. Hinckley's 
secretary came out and took it. That was as close as A1 Rust got. 

Only hours after Rust returned from Temple Square, Hofmann called 
from New York. 

“My wife says you sent a letter to the Church." He sounded very grave. 

Rust was defiant. “Yes, Mark, I took it up a couple of hours ago, 
personally." 



180 THE MORMON MURDERS 



“Why did you do that? I told you how important it was not to do 
anything like that.” 

“You have been giving me the runaround. I told you I’m just tired of 
this.” 

“Well, you shouldn’t have done that.” 

The next day, Hofmann cut short his New York stay and flew back to 
Salt Lake City. He went directly to Hinckley’s office. He had come to 
explain the letter from Rust. “I’ve already taken care of that,” he report- 
edly told Hinckley, nonchalant as ever. Rust was the Salt Lake investor 
whom he had told Hinckley about in their last meeting, the one who 
wanted his money out. 

Hinckley nodded. According to Hofmann’s account, he didn’t ask why 
Rust thought the Church had the McLellin Collection when Hofmann 
had told Hinckley it was in a safe-deposit box. He didn’t ask about money. 
He seemed to have only one thing on his mind. 

Are you sure Rust won’t make the Collection public? 

“Yes, he’s a good Mormon.” 

Are you sure he won’t try to obtain the Collection? 

“Yes. Wilford Cardon is going to pay off Rust’s interest in the Collec- 
tion.” 

Deniability. 

Hofmann watched as Hinckley wrote a note for his file that the matter 
had been taken care of. 

Nine frustrating days went by, and A1 Rust heard nothing. Finally, he 
called Hinckley’s office. He reached a different secretary this time. “The 
letter is here,” she said, “but President Hinckley is gone until the ninth.” 
Hinckley was in East Germany dedicating a new Temple. Rust considered 
calling or writing again to find out why there was such a delay in respond- 
ing to his first letter, but decided against it. Who was he to question the 
Second Counselor to the President of the First Presidency or anything the 
Second Counselor to the President of the First Presidency chose to do, 
or not do? Good Mormons don’t press the General Authorities. They wait 
to be called. 

So A1 Rust waited. 

About a week later, Mark Hofmann called. “You probably aren’t going 
to get an answer to your letter to President Hinckley,” he said. 

“Why not?” 

“I’ve taken care of everything.” 

“I wonder if you really have.” 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 181 



* * $ 

In early June, Hofmann flew to Mesa, Arizona, to meet Wilford Cardon, 
to make his pitch. If Cardon would loan him $180,000, Hofmann said, 
he could buy the McLellin Collection and donate it to the Church. "It's 
something the Church should have,” he stressed. “Pm not entirely sure 
what each and every item is, but what I know already is enough to indicate 
that the information would be devastating if it got into the wrong hands/' 

Hofmann said he was coming into a lot of money soon and would pay 
Cardon back. It was a loan, not an investment, not a gift. Hofmann 
wanted to give it to the Church himself. “I’ve got to get it and give it 
to President Hinckley,” he said. “The Church should not buy it outright 
or have it loaned to them.” 

Cardon, a devout Mormon, found the whole proposal troubling. This 
didn’t sound like the Church he knew and loved, all this talk of dangerous 
documents, clandestine purchases, and enemy hands. “Let’s get Hinckley 
on the phone and ask him what he thinks,” Cardon suggested. 

“Fine,” said Hofmann. “I’ll place the call.” 

He called the First Presidency office. “President Hinckley’s not there,” 
he told Cardon. “He’s in Germany.” 

Without Hinckley’s okay, Cardon wouldn’t touch the deal. 

On June 14, the Library of Congress returned the “Oath of a Freeman” 
to the Schiller-Wapner Galleries in New York City. They were not inter- 
ested in purchasing it for $1.5 million. 



The Church needed another push. 

Brent Metcalfe had been taking a lot of heat for the Cowdery history. 
Interviewers were dogging him, always with the same questions: How do 
you know? What proof do you have? And all he could say was, “I have 
this source, and he’s very reliable.” Without corroboration, none of the 
national papers or magazines would pick up the story. It would remain a 
local sidebar, the news equivalent of a crank call. Certainly nothing for 
the Church to worry about. 




182 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Metcalfe felt as if he'd been hung out to dry. “You put too much 
responsibility on my shoulders/’ he told Hofmann. “You’re having me 
talk about these things, without anyone to corroborate what I say. I 
think you should talk directly to somebody who is known for their in- 
tegrity and for their knowledge of Mormonism, but who is outside of 
Mormonism.” 

Hofmann had just the man in mind: John Dart of the Los Angeles 
Times. Dart had written extensively on the Church and attended sev- 
eral of the symposiums sponsored by Sunstone and the Mormon His- 
tory Association. His readership included some of the richest stakes in 
Mormondom. As the flap over the Stowell letter made clear, when the 
Los Angeles Times said boo, the Church jumped. 

Hofmann told Metcalfe to contact Dart and set up a meeting. 

In early June, Dart flew into Salt Lake City and rendezvoused with 
Hofmann at the Training Table restaurant on Highland Drive near 
the Cottonwood Mall. From there, they walked to a nearby park and sat 
down in a gazebo on a hill. Dart, a reserved man with an unexpected 
sense of humor, pulled out a tape recorder and Hofmann began to 
talk. 

He described the Cowdery history as a volume bound partly in leather, 
with marbled cardboard covers, about eight inches wide, ten inches long 
and three-quarters of an inch thick, with lined pages. When asked why 
he agreed to be interviewed, he said he felt the Cowdery history was 
important corroboration for the salamander references in the Martin 
Harris letter, which many Mormons still considered a forgery. 

What exactly did Cowdery say about the finding of the gold 
plates? 

“I don’t remember the exact wording,” said Hofmann, “but the history 
said that Alvin located the buried gold with his seer stone. I remember 
clearly that it was not a private venture. Alvin had other people with him, 
including Joseph.” 

What did it say about the salamander? 

The salamander appeared on three occasions, once to Alvin and twice 
to Joseph. 

Does it sound like there was a conspiracy to keep Alvin’s early role 
quiet? 

“Conspiracy may be a bad word to use, but there must have been 
some sort of agreement that Joseph is the new seer now that Alvin is 
gone. Certainly the family and Oliver Cowdery knew. I can’t imagine 
that any more knew, because it’s an important aspect of the founding of 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 183 

the Church, and it hasn’t come down in other histories that we know 
of.” 

Do you think this will shake some people’s faith in the Mormon 
Church? 

“There is a propensity to keep things the way they are. Dutiful Mor- 
mons would say that after Alvin died, the angel came to Joseph and told 
him what to do.” 

The interview lasted a couple of hours. 

On June 13, Church leaders were awakened by telephone calls from 
bishops and stake presidents all over Southern California who had opened 
the Times and seen their worst nightmares on page 3 in a six-column-wide 
headline: mormon origins challenged anew over purported his- 
tory. 

If Gordon Hinckley had sat down and made a list of everything he 
didn’t want to see made public, it might have read like this: a complete 
retelling of the embarrassing details surrounding the Stowell letter, more 
talk of the money-digging craze at the beginning of the nineteenth cen- 
tury, all the most bizarre passages of the Salamander Letter, the Cowdery 
version of the discovery of the gold plates by Alvin instead of Joseph 
Smith, and references to the Church’s “vague” response to questions 
about whether it was hiding the Cowdery history. 

The article referred repeatedly to a “highly reliable source” who had 
seen the Cowdery book in the Church’s headquarters. 

The source, who insisted on anonymity in order to 
preserve his standing in the church, said the Cowdery 
history and the role it gives Alvin Smith lend further 
credibility to the documents disclosed earlier, which 
portray Joseph Smith’s involvement in occult methods 
to find hidden treasures without any references to 
religious events so familiar to present-day Mormons. 

. . . Throughout its history the Mormon Church has 
had to deal with charges that the Book of Mormon is 
a figment of Smith’s imagination and that Smith was 
just a treasure seeker. 

In Temple Square, the response was near panic. With Hinckley still out 
of the country, no one knew how to react. For weeks afterward, paranoia 
ran at an all-time high. The word of the day was damage control. 



184 THE MORMON MURDERS 



* * * 

Hinckley was still out of the country when Mark Hofmann called Steve 
Christensen on Thursday, June 27. “I need to see you/' His cartoon voice 
sounded unusually harsh and urgent. “I don't want to discuss it over the 
phone, but it's important." They agreed to meet the next morning at 
10:30. 

Christensen recorded the meeting in his journal, marking the pages 
“Confidential Entry": 

The meeting commenced as previously arranged and Mark wasted no 
time in telling the following set of circumstances. For some time he had 
actively pursued a collection of Mormon material in Texas which is most 
commonly referred to as the William McLellin Collection. At one time the 
Church had pursued the collection, negotiating with the current owner's 
father; however they were unsuccessful in their efforts. (Mark indicated that 
the former owner refused to sell it at any price to the Church.) 

Mark was finally successful in entering into an option to purchase with 
the current owner, provided that the owner neither showed nor discussed 
the collection with anyone other than Mark and provided that Mark could 
produce the necessary $195,000 needed to purchase the collection. To 
obtain the option Mark placed $10,000 down as earnest money deposit. The 
remaining funds needed therefore equalled $185,000. Mark had indicated 
to me that he had arranged to borrow the funds from a private party; 
however, in the last days remaining on the purchase option the private party 
withdrew his financial support. 

Hofmann was desperate. The “purchase option" expired on Sunday, 
June 30, he said, the day after tomorrow. Was there any chance that 
Christensen could lend him the necessary funds? He made it clear that 
unless he came through before the deadline, the Collection would fall into 
“enemy hands." 

It was too much money for Christensen, who was on the verge of 
declaring bankruptcy, but he wanted to help. Normally, he would have 
called Hinckley — he always seemed to know what to do in these delicate 
situations — but Hinckley was still in Germany. He suggested instead that 
they call another General Authority, Hugh Pinnock, a member of the 
Council of Seventy who happened to be a close college friend of the 
chairman of CFS; a man, Christensen said, who had “broad financial 
expertise and a wide circle of friends." 

Christensen called Pinnock and quickly reviewed the situation with 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 185 



him. Pinnock didn’t require any persuading. “I can have the funds within 
an hour,” he said. “Bring Hofmann to my office as soon as possible.” 

They arrived at the Church Administration Building about 11.25. 
Pinnock welcomed them “most graciously,” and took them into the more 
congenial offices of Dallin Oaks, an Apostle and Pinnock’s immediate 
supervisor within the Church hierarchy. Hofmann repeated the dilemma, 
in even darker tones this time. He spelled out, “in no uncertain terms,” 
Christensen noted in his journal, “how damaging the material could be 
if it fell into the wrong hands.” 

He told them how Wesley Walters and George Smith had somehow 
found out about the Collection and contacted the owner. Should Hof- 
mann miss his funding deadline, there was no question they would rush 
in and scoop up the Collection. There had been some speculation in print 
(in the Tanners’ newsletter) and considerable rumor that the Church had 
already purchased the Collection in an attempt to suppress it. Hofmann’s 
message was clear: “If I buy the Collection, then you can deny that you 
have it.” Once again, he was offering what they wanted most: deniability. 

Unlike Hinckley, Pinnock and Christensen listened eagerly to Hof- 
mann’s account of what the Collection contained. 

It was a chilling list. There were pieces of the Egyptian papyrus from 
which, according to Church doctrine, Joseph Smith translated the Book 
of Abraham. (The last time some of these papyri surfaced, in 1967, they 
had turned out to be nothing more than commonplace funerary inscrip- 
tions, throwing the divine origins of the Book of Abraham in deep doubt 
and causing the Church no end of embarrassment.) There were the papers 
and diaries of McLellin himself, all incendiary stuff. Even without seeing 
them, Pinnock and Christensen could imagine McLellin’s chronicles of 
manipulation, corruption, fornication, and other assorted scandals. 

And finally, most damaging, there was an affidavit from Emma Smith, 
the Prophet’s wife, indicating that Joseph’s first religious experience was 
the recovery of the gold plates in 1827. In other words, additional proof 
that there was no First Vision! The Salamander Letter and Cowdery 
history were right — Alvin Smith had been the first to hear of the gold 
plates. Joseph had merely stepped into his shoes — or carried on his scam, 
however one chose to interpret it. 

There were papers connecting Sidney Rigdon, an associate of Joseph 
Smith’s, and Solomon Spaulding, the author of a romantic novel about 
early Romans coming to America and establishing a civilization — a novel 
that predated Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon . , about early Hebrews 
coming to America and establishing a civilization. The Church had always 



186 THE MORMON MURDERS 



claimed that Smith knew nothing of Spaulding s book, despite many 
parallels and even common passages. Hofmann's documents would prove 
otherwise. 

In all, there were three orange crate-size boxes filled with dynamite. 

Hofmann explained that, from the very beginning, he had intended to 
donate the Collection to the Church. When Christensen asked him how 
he could afford such a sizable gift, Hofmann told him about the “Oath 
of a Freeman." The Library of Congress had agreed to purchase it for $1.5 
million, he claimed. The contract was already signed, and the first pay- 
ment was due on August 15. At that time, he could easily repay the loan. 

“This way 1 can say that I never sold the McLellin Collection to the 
Church. And the Church's representatives can say they never purchased 
it. With any luck, no one will ever ask me if I donated the material." 

Christensen commented in his journal account: “Though this form of 
dialogue walks the fine line of 'honest intent' behind a question, it perhaps 
saves the Church for the time being from having to offer an explanation 
on why they won't release the material and/or be under the necessity of 
mounting a public relations move to counter the contents of the collec- 
tion." 

With the fallout of the Salamander Letter, Stowell, and Cowdery 
fiascos still hanging in the air, it was a powerful argument. 

One that Pinnock saw immediately. 

Hugh Pinnock was said to have only one ambition in life, to be an 
Apostle. And this crisis could be his ticket. Only a few days before, he had 
complained to an associate, “When I was in business, I could measure my 
success by the amount of money 1 made. Now that I'm a General Author- 
ity, there is no way to measure my success." 

Now he had found a way. Mark Hofmann had presented him with an 
opportunity to save the Church from another devastating revelation, an 
embarrassment far worse than anything so far. If he could successfully 
maneuver the Church through these tricky shoals during President Hinck- 
ley's absence, it would be an act of stewardship worthy of Hinckley 
himself, an act that would undoubtedly bring him to the attention of the 
Council of the Twelve. 

He lunged at the opportunity so quickly that even Christensen was 
startled. He wrote in his journal: “It was remarkable to both Mark and 
myself that Elder Pinnock was willing to assist to his fullest extent possible 
with only a brief explanation. It was as though he sensed completely the 
potential damage this material would cause in the hands of the enemies 
of the Church." 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 187 



The money was no problem, Pinnock boasted. He had raised funds in 
the past for behind-the-scenes projects that were important to the 
Church, always with utmost discretion. President Tanner had once asked 
him to find the money — “privately, quickly and quietly” — to restore the 
farmhouse in Fayette, New York, where on April 6, 1830, the Church was 
founded. Pinnock relished the story. He had called just the right nineteen 
men and asked for $25,000 from each. All but three had come through — 
no questions asked. And why not? asked Pinnock, taking off his glasses for 
emphasis. Their Temple covenants required them to “literally give all to 
the Church.” 

Pinnock savored the story for a few moments, like a man at the end 
of a rich meal, then went to the outer office to “make a few phone calls.” 

He returned just minutes later with a satisfied smile that said, “All 
done, simple as that.” He said he had called Zion's Bank — the Church 
bank — but the chairman, vice-chairman, and president were all out of 
town. Undaunted, he had called Bob Ward of First Interstate Bank, on 
whose board, Pinnock pointed out, he served. 

First Interstate would provide Hofmann with a cashier's check in the 
amount of $185,000. All he had to do was sign a promissory note. 

Collateral? 

No collateral necessary. Hofmann's word that the sale to the Library 
of Congress was a fait accompli was sufficient. 

Pinnock obviously liked this — the sheer efficacy of it. Hugh Pinnock, 
problem solver. He was all gravity and dispatch. He handed Hofmann four 
phone numbers. “This way you can reach me day or night.” What if the 
owner of the Collection tried to break the deal by arguing that a cashier's 
check wasn't “legal tender” on a Sunday because it couldn't be cashed? 
Not a problem for Hugh Pinnock. He would have $185,000 in cash ready 
as a backup. Did Hofmann need use of a Church propjet for his trip to 
Texas to pick up the Collection? Pinnock could provide it. How about an 
armored car to transport the documents? Better not to take any chances. 
Pinnock could arrange that too. 

“I think that might be overdoing it a little,” Hofmann suggested, 
doggedly deferential. It would be enough just to send the Collection by 
registered mail and insure it for $195,000. 

“I'll keep you updated on the negotiations this weekend,” he told them. 
The plan was this: if all went well — and he had no reason to believe it 
wouldn't — he would put the Collection in several safe-deposit boxes until 
the check from the Library of Congress came through. Then he would 
pay off the loan and hand the materials over to the Church. 



188 THE MORMON MURDERS 



As the three men walked toward the door, Pinnock turned to Hofmann. 
“I wonder if I could talk to you sometime about retaining your services 
to track down two items for me.” 

One was the missing 116 pages of the Book of Mormon. Pinnock 
had heard of a "crazy lady” in Pennsylvania who had leads on the miss- 
ing pages, as well as a hoard of materials once belonging to Sidney 
Rigdon. 

And the second item? 

‘Tm not in a position to reveal the second item at this time,” Pinnock 
said, the stiff, paternalistic tone returning. "It's too sensitive to mention.” 

Christensen and Hofmann went directly to the bank, where the paper 
work was ready. All Hofmann had to do was sign the promissory note for 
$185,000 at an interest rate of prime plus one, due September 3, 1985. 
As Pinnock had promised, no collateral was required. That didn't seem 
to please Harvey Tanner, the bank vice-president who had been put in 
charge of the transaction. An unsecured loan of this size was highly 
unusual. But if the Church wanted it, if his bosses wanted it, who was he 
to stand in the way? 

Just in case, Tanner asked Hofmann to bring in a copy of his contract 
with the Library of Congress — at his convenience. Hofmann said he 
would do so gladly. 

That night, Christensen wrote in his journal: "I am convinced that 
Elder Pinnock's personal actions not only preserved Mark Hofmann's 
ability to purchase the collection, but equally important, he has saved the 
Church countless time and money and effort in countering what would 
have been an avalanche of negative publicity should the collection have 
fallen into the wrong hands.” 

Christensen also wished Mark Hofmann well on his difficult mission to 
Texas, armed only with his faith and the Lord's check for $185,000. 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 189 



Connie Smith had seen many strange things in her eigh- 
teen years of selling homes. But this pair took the prize. 
“How can these kids afford this house?” she asked herself, not for the first 
time, as they stood in the twenty-by-thirty living room of the “glorious 
country' estate with marvelous livability and endless quality” in Cotton- 
wood, the most exclusive neighborhood in Salt Lake City. 

Partly, it was the way they were dressed. To Smith, an attractive woman 
in her sixties, always elegant, with good bones and twenty-four grandchil- 
dren, it was bad enough that they had worn dirty jeans and thongs to the 
last ten showings (thank heaven, most of the owners vacated the premises 
for their visits), but they had worn the same dirty jeans and thongs every 
day. 

As the city’s foremost broker of “quality” homes, Smith had certainly 
seen wealthy people wearing all kinds of crazy things, and she had learned 
to affect a degree of tolerance. She had learned to judge her buyers’ wealth 
not by their dress, but by their bearing. That was the problem with these 
two. They not only didn’t dress rich, they didn’t act rich. They were too 
shy. They didn’t ask enough questions. They didn’t take control of the 
situation. He had more of an air of authority than she did, but that was 
damning by faint praise. They would enter a room, walk to the center, 
and just stand there, staring. 

She expressed her concerns to the co-agent on the sale, a personal friend 
of the couple. “Can these people really afford this house?” she asked. 
“He’s my childhood friend,” the agent had told her. “He’s absolutely 
qualified. We can trust him.” 

So Smith stood in the living room and ran down the house’s special 
features one more time (this was their second visit). It may not have been 
a distinguished house, but it was big: a seven-bedroom brick rambler with 
big living room, big rec room, big kitchen, big tennis court, and big lawn. 
Smith looked at the young couple standing in the middle of the room in 
their dirty jeans and thongs and thought to herself, They look sort of big 
themselves. Sort of barrel-shaped. 

Then she repeated the price, just in case they had missed it the first 
time: $567,000. It had first been listed at over $700,000, but the real 




190 THE MORMON MURDERS 



estate market had taken a beating during the recent economic downturn. 
The $567,000 was “more or less firm.” 

The wife explained that they had been very interested in a home in 
Emigration Canyon. Her husband liked it because it was secluded and had 
an extensive security system. But she wanted a family house in a good 
neighborhood where her kids could grow up with “advantaged” children. 

Smith, who worked more for pleasure than for money, took pride in her 
politesse, but she couldn't restrain herself any longer. She would do it 
diplomatically, but she had to ask. 

“What exactly is your line of work, Mr. Hofmann?” 

“I deal in rare documents,” said the barrel-shaped man. 

The co-agent on the sale was Mark Hofmann's former schoolmate, Carl 
Lundquist. On one of their many viewing trips, this one without Dorie, 
Hofmann had shared with Lundquist the security concerns that led him 
to prefer the fortress-like house in Emigration Canyon. “Ever since I 
found the Martin Harris letter,” he said, “I've gotten phone calls, let- 
ters — death threats to kill me and my family.” 

This comment led to a philosophical debate — like the ones they used 
to have at Olympus High. 

“Under what circumstances,” Hofmann asked, “do you think you could 
kill a person?” 

“I don't know,” said Lundquist, a little startled by the question and out 
of practice at philosophical debates. 

“Could you kill somebody for money?” Hofmann pressed. “What if 
you didn't even know the person, but someone offered you a lot of money 
to kill that person?” 

Lundquist pondered the question for a minute. “If I was in a war, trying 
to defend my country, I could kill. If someone was breaking into my house 
and my family was threatened, yes, I could kill. But if I was asked to go 
out and kill somebody in cold blood, somebody I didn't know, and they 
weren't bad people, and I didn't have a reason to kill them, and I had no 
idea why someone wanted them dead? Could I do that? Could I take 
somebody else's life without justification? Without cause?” 

He paused a minute, trying to give it serious consideration. “No,” he 
finally decided. “There's just no way.” 

“Me neither,” said Hofmann. “I don't think I could do that, either.” 
There was a long pause. “But if you were going to kill somebody,” he 
started up again, “how would you do it? Would you shoot him, blow him 
up, poison him, shoot him with a shotgun?” Mark had obviously done 
some thinking about this, Lundquist realized. 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 191 



Mark thought the best way to kill someone was with a shotgun. “Shot- 
guns are untraceable. They don't have riflings. With a rifle or a pistol you 
can trace the bearing marks on the bullet — unless you're using the right 
kind of bullet. You can use a bullet that, once it impacts, it explodes, and 
you can't identify that bullet." Hofmann thought about that for a mo- 
ment, then added, “But you have to be at pretty close range to kill 
someone with a shotgun. It's something you’d have to do while you were 
looking at them in the face." 

Then he threw out another possibility. “What about a bomb? If a bomb 
was well built, well thought-out, that would be untraceable. Your finger- 
prints wouldn't be on it. Nobody would know how it got there if you were 
careful placing it, and it would be totally impossible to trace." 

“Yeah, that would be one way to do it," Lundquist agreed ab- 
stractly. “It'd make sure they were dead." Lundquist thought how 
much fun it was to talk this way again — philosophically — with his old 
friend. “There aren't a lot of people who are this open-minded, who 
are willing to talk like this." 

Then the conversation turned to sex: who liked what in bed and 
whether Hofmann, who had been to a nude “health club" on one of his 
trips to New York, wore gym shorts or ran around in the buff. 



A1 Rust was sick and tired of waiting for his money — 
$296,750 (including profits), to be precise. He had put up 
with unretumed phone calls, bounced checks, and bogus stories long 
enough. One day in August 1985, his slow bum reached the boiling point 
and he drove to Hofmann’s house to have it out. 

As usual, Mark wasn't there. When Dorie came to the door, Rust, for 
want of a better target, lit into her. “Mark isn't being honest with me. 
He's giving me a runaround again. He's never here when I want to see 
him. He tells me one thing one day and another thing another day. He 
keeps promising me all these things, and he doesn't answer my questions. 
I don't know what to do." 

Rust had finally come to the conclusion that Hofmann was taking 
advantage of his devotion to the Church. It was the most despicable trick 
of all. “I'll tell you what I'm going to do," he told Dorie. “I am going back 




192 THE MORMON MURDERS 



to the LDS Church, and if they don't do anything, I'm going to take 
action." 

Tears came to Dorie's eyes. “I don't know exactly what Mark is 
doing," she said. “He's having lots of problems. I don't know what's 
going on." 

Rust wasn't the kind of man who could watch a woman cry and not 
soften a little. “I'm not trying to nail him to the cross," he said. “I just 
need some answers. Have him contact me." 

But as he drove away from the house, Rust had that metallic feeling 
in the pit of his stomach that told him he had been snookered again, that 
he was too forgiving, that Doralee was once again covering for her no-good 
husband. Maybe she had no choice. Maybe she was more to be pitied than 
censured — being married to Mark Hofmann couldn't be easy. But this 
time, when he stopped thinking about it, he was still angry. 

That evening Hofmann called Rust from New York. “I'm taking care 
of everything," he said. “Everything will be fine. Just hang in there." 

Rust “hung in there" until the next time Hofmann came to visit. Then 
he let him have it. Rust wasn't a screamer or a shouter, but he could be 
a stern father. 

“I've heard four different stories about selling the McLellin Collection. 
Now you're telling me someone's going to donate the money so the 
Church can buy it. But none of it ever seems to materialize." Like a good 
Mormon, Rust was concerned not just about their business dealings, but 
about the way Mark was running his life. “It seems like you're collecting 
money from Peter to pay Paul. You're just trying to get money from one 
person to cover a debt to another person. You sell something, and instead 
of giving that money to pay back a person you're obligated to, you take 
the money and go do something else. You're running around like a 
chicken with your head cut off." 

Hofmann sat and listened, stone still. He didn't try to defend himself. 
He didn't try to apologize. He just sat, not looking at Rust, not looking 
at anything, as vacant as a display case without the display. A1 Rust was 
a very gentle and softhearted man — his wife was always criticizing him 
for it — but, at that moment, he could feel his anger rising. He felt the 
urge to raise his fist and smash it into that soft, blank face — just to get 
its attention. 

When Hofmann left that night, still without a response, Rust told his 
wife. “I've never seen Mark like this. Nothing I said tonight got through 
to him. We spent two hours of wasted time." He also suspected, for the 
first time, that there was a side to Mark Hofmann he had never seen. 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 193 



$ $ A 

On August 12, Hofmann signed a contract to buy the big rambler in 
Cottonwood for $550,000, only $17,000 less than the asking price. Con- 
nie Smith wondered why Carl Lundquist had let his client pay near full 
price in a buyer's market where offers routinely ran $1 50,000 below asking 
price. But she didn't want to ask too many questions. 

Lundquist wondered how Mark planned to pay. 

“No mortgage," Hofmann insisted. “I'd prefer to pay in several in- 
stallments over two or three years. I've got a bank account in Switzer- 
land with five hundred thousand in it. I've done some deals over in 
Europe, some document deals, where the proceeds have gone into my 
Swiss account. I could pay cash for the whole thing if I wanted to. I 
just don't want to." 

Instead, Hofmann agreed to pay $5,000 in earnest money, $195,000 at 
the closing, and three additional annual installments of $195,000. 

The closing was set for 1:00 p.m., October 15. 



Sometime in mid August, Hofmann brought A1 Rust a 
check for $40,000. It bounced. A few days later, Hofmann 
brought a cashier's check for $125,000. He also said that if Rust 
redeposited the $40,000 check the next day, it would go through. To 
Rust's astonishment, it did. From a total of $296,750, the indebtedness 
had been reduced to $131,750. Mark promised to pay the balance by 
August 25. 

Sure enough, on the 25th, Hofmann appeared in the store looking 
jubilant and reporting that things were going “marvelously well." He 
waved a check made out to Rust for $132,000. 

“What's the story with the McLellin Collection?" Rust asked. 

“I acquired a document that is very valuable," Hofmann said. “It's 
worth over a million dollars, and it's being sold to the United States 
government. They are going to pay me on September 1." Just when Rust 
was about to ask what this had to do with the McLellin Collection, 
Hofmann added, “So I've donated the McLellin Collection to the LDS 
Church myself as tithing." 




194 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Rust was stunned. “Gosh, how can you give away a collection that you 
don't own? I paid the money for that collection. It's a partnership. How 
could you give that away when it wasn't yours?" 

Hofmann tried to explain that the Church didn't want to get involved 
in buying it, and “this just seemed like the easy way. I was getting all this 
extra money and I pay tithing anyway, so I thought I would just give it 
to them. Don't worry. I'm going to be making so much money on this 
other deal." 

Rust told himself that it didn't really matter where the money was 
coming from as long as it was coming. “Boy, that's great, Mark," he finally 
conceded. 

“So I guess we don't need the safe-deposit box any more," Hofmann 
prompted. 

“I guess we don't." The two men went across the street, and Hofmann 
retrieved his documents and books. 

The next day, the $132,000 check bounced. 

Steaming, Rust instructed his bank to monitor Hofmann's account 
daily and to put the check through for collection at the first sign of 
solvency. 

One day toward the end of August, Jill Stone, Mark's former girlfriend, 
saw him at a Park West concert at the huge, circular Salt Palace on West 
Temple. Actually, he saw her, somehow, in a crowd of five thousand 
people. They hadn't spoken in almost six years. It was a brief, awkward 
reunion. 

Two days later, he called. 

She was shocked that he had been able to find her unlisted number. 

“I want to see you," he said in a high, plaintive voice, like a small 
child. 

“Aren't you married — with kids?" she reminded him curtly. 

“Yes." 

“Then you have no business calling me." 

“But you're not married, are you?" 

“That's none of your business. My life is my own, and it doesn't involve 
you in any way." 

“I want to see you." An insistent edge crept into his voice. “I want to 
make you understand. . . ." 

“I'm sorry. I needed answers six years ago — not now." 

Then she hung up. 

He called again the next day. 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 195 



“I want to see you,” he repeated, more shrill this time. “I need to see 
you. 1 need to explain things to you.” 

“You don't seem to understand. I don't want to talk to you any more.” 
It was as if a bomb had exploded on the other end of the line. Hofmann 
erupted into incoherent screaming — just as he had six years ago. She knew 
if she had been in the same room, he would have tried to hit her again. 
“Why can't you understand?” he railed. “Why won't you ever listen to 
me? Why won't anybody listen to me?” he shrieked uncontrollably, his 
voice filled with menace. “Why won’t anybody listen to me?” 

She hung up again and, terrified, called a psychologist friend. “What 
if he calls again? What am 1 going to do?” 

“Whatever you do,” she said, “don't make him angry. Don't make him 
mad.” 

At the First Interstate Bank, Harvey Tanner waited all day September 3 
for Mark Hofmann. The $185,000 loan that Hugh Pinnock had arranged 
was due. Tanner's bad feeling about this whole affair had only gotten 
stronger, and eight hours of looking up from his desk and hoping to see 
Hofmann's face didn't help his fraying nerves. At the end of the day, after 
the bank closed its doors, he called Hugh Pinnock to give him the bad 
news. 

Pinnock turned around and called Steve Christensen. 

In his desperate search for Hofmann, Christensen called Brent Met- 
calfe. “I'm looking for Mark,” he said, unusually frantic. “If you see him, 
tell him he has to call me.” 

“What's going on, Steve?” 

“I've got to get ahold of him right away. I need to get some money from 
him. His $185,000 note is due. Mark has to get ahold of me quick.” 

A few days later, Hofmann called Pinnock and told him he was having 
some financial problems. Pinnock told him to call Harvey Tanner and 
explain. When Hofmann called, Tanner suggested that he come in and 
discuss the matter — and bring with him the contract to sell the “Oath 
of a Freeman.” They set a date and time for the meeting. 

Hofmann never showed up. 

He did show up a few days later in Hugh Pinnock's office to offer 
reassurances that he was financially sound. When he left, Pinnock called 
Christensen. He wanted Steve to make sure the loan was repaid. Every- 
thing had to be handled discreetly, of course — Hofmann was in a sensitive 
position — but there could be no mistaking Pinnock's message: Get that 
money. 



196 THE MORMON MURDERS 



A few nights later, Metcalfe got another urgent call from Christensen. 
“I've got to get ahold of Mark right away.” 

“What happened now?” 

“He's just bounced a check for $185,000. Hinckley and Pinnock are 
really concerned. They're thinking of pressing criminal charges.” 

On September 9, Hofmann visited his cousin Ken Woolley and gave him 
a check for $40,000 to pay off an old debt. He looked real happy, Woolley 
thought. “Things are going good,” he said. “I am going to get the house.” 



Later the same week, Hofmann walked into Thomas Wild- 
ing's office on West Temple with spectacular news. “The 
Haunted Man,” the Dickens manuscript, had finally sold for a 66 percent 
gain ! Wilding could hardly believe it. His old friend Mark really did have 
a Midas touch. Not that Wilding hadn't had a few doubts along the way, 
especially when five months went by without any word. He had even tried 
to see Mark's dealer, Justin Schiller, on his recent Labor Day trip to New 
York, but Hofmann, who was in charge of arranging the meeting, called 
at the last minute to say Schiller was out of town for the weekend. Now, 
in the midst of the celebration, he felt a little embarrassed. How could 
he have doubted? 

“Who did you sell it to?” Wilding wanted every delicious detail. 

“The Pierpont Morgan Library, in New York.” 

“You'll get us a sales receipt?” 

“No problem.” 

There was one problem, however. The money, $400,000, wouldn't be 
paid until October 16. When Wilding asked why, Hofmann explained, 
“When you sell a major manuscript, there is often a delay. That's standard 
for the industry.” 

But wait, there was more good news. The Brigham Young letters that 
Wilding had helped him buy in August had also sold for a 42 percent gain. 
Almost 50 percent in one month. And that money, $34,130, was available 
immediately. 

It was available, that is, if Wilding wanted to pass up an even better 
deal. 




TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 197 



“You should know,” Hofmann began with the twinkle in his eye that 
all his investors loved to see, “1 now have probably the best potential 
investment Eve ever had.” 

For Mark Hofmann, that was saying a lot. 

“1 can offer you a chance to get in on the biggest investment yet, an 
investment that is just phenomenal. I’d really like you to participate in 
it.” 

Wilding couldn’t wait to hear. 

It was a second copy of the “Oath of a Freeman.” 

“It’s the first printed document in colonial America,” Hofmann 
boasted. “I sold the first one to the Library of Congress for a million 
dollars. That was through Justin Schiller too. If the first one sold for a 
million, the second has to be worth a million and a half.” He told Wilding 
how he had found the first one serendipitously in the Argosy Book Store. 
“This second one I’ve been offered by a documents dealer in Boston.” 
The dealer’s name? Lyn Jacobs. 

“I need to raise half a million dollars for it,” said Hofmann, brimming 
with excitement. “As soon as I can get the money, I’ll fly to Boston to 
pick it up.” 

Wilding didn’t know beans about documents, but he did know busi- 
ness, and his business sense told him it couldn’t help to have two copies 
of the same document on the market at the same time. “You’re sure the 
first one has already sold?” he asked. 

“Absolutely. The first one has been sold.” 

Wilding struggled to square up the story. He wanted to believe it was 
true, that the deal was really this impossibly good. “If the document’s 
worth over a million dollars, why would Mr. Jacobs sell it to you for 500 
thousand?” 

“He’s owned it for a year and has a gain in it sufficient enough that 
he’s willing to let it go.” 

Wilding didn’t need to hear any more. All of Mark’s deals were a 
little screwy, but who could argue with his record? He gave the go-ahead 
to reinvest all the profits from the sale of the Brigham Young letters, 
and he arranged a meeting with some of his investors to scare up the 
rest of the money Hofmann needed. The deal was so good he called 
family first. The obvious choice was his brother-in-law, Sid Jensen. Jen- 
sen had recently come by a large sum of money in an unfortunate way: 
he had lost an arm in a buzz-saw accident and successfully sued the 
plant where the accident occurred. Now he wanted to invest his win- 
nings. This was just the deal for him, Wilding thought: high return, no 



198 THE MORMON MURDERS 



downside. Jensen came to the meeting with Hofmann accompanied by 
his wife, father, and mother. 

After Hofmann repeated his pitch, Wilding and Jensen asked if they 
could call Schiller in New York to get some more information. Mark 
hesitated for a minute (These document dealers, Wilding thought, so 
secretive) hut then agreed — on one condition. He didn't want Schiller to 
know there was a second “Oath." Wilding could ask about Schiller's 
opinion of the “Oath" itself, its background, rarity, value, salability, etc., 
but he mustn't reveal the existence of a second copy. If he did, he might 
“blow the deal." 

Blowing the deal was the last thing Wilding wanted to do. With 
Hofmann listening on another phone, he treaded through the conversa- 
tion very softly, very carefully — so carefully that he never bothered to 
confirm if the first copy of the “Oath" had, in fact, been sold. By the end 
of the conversation, Schiller had pushed all the right buttons — “He 
couldn't have done a better job if he had been selling it himself" — and 
Wilding was satisfied. 

Jensen, too, was in. 

On September 12, Harvey Tanner looked up from his desk at First 
Interstate Bank and finally saw the person he had been looking for: Mark 
Hofmann. He leaped from his chair and caught up to him at the teller's 
window, buying cashier's checks. “Can I speak to you privately?" he said 
in the most restrained voice he could muster. The two men that were with 
him looked startled. Hofmann looked cornered. 

During their brief, tense conversation, in which Tanner demanded 
repayment of the $185,000 loan, Hofmann somehow failed to mention 
that he was carrying $173,870 in cash and cashier's checks — the money 
that Wilding's group was investing in the second copy of the “Oath." 

Wilding and Jensen stood not far away, watching the conversation in 
heated pantomime. They couldn't catch any of the words, but the grim 
expression on Harvey Tanner's face said more than they wanted to hear. 
They looked at each other with identical expressions of apprehension: 
This man is taking $200,000 of our money. This man already has almost 
$200,000 of our money. Why does this man's banker look like he wants 
to have him arrested? 

In the parking lot, Wilding asked, as nonchalantly as possible, “What 
was the problem, Mark? That man sure looked upset." 

Hofmann shrugged his shoulders. “Well, I co-signed a loan, a small 
loan, and it's a little bit overdue. That's all. It will be taken care of." He 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 199 



seemed suddenly in a terrible hurry to get to the airport to catch his plane 
for Boston to pick up the second “Oath.” No time to waste on trivial 
matters. 

Jensen, a solid, quick-tempered man, wasn't satisfied. When they 
dropped Wilding back at his office, Jensen decided to stay with the 
money. Together, he and Hofmann drove to Hofmann's bank on 33rd 
South, where Jensen surrendered his check and Hofmann deposited all 
the checks in his account and had new cashier's checks issued. 

Jensen noticed that instead of having a single check made out in the 
amount of the purchase price, Hofmann was having a number of checks 
made out in varying amounts, the biggest one only $100,000. Jensen asked 
what he was doing. 

“I want to leave myself some room for negotiation,” Hofmann ex- 
plained. 

“Then why don’t all the checks add up to the purchase price?” 

Hofmann seemed to stumble for a few seconds. “I, ah, already sent 
some checks to the dealer in Boston,” he finally said. 

That didn’t sound very likely to Sid Jensen. He was liking this whole 
proposition — and Mark Hofmann too — less and less. 

On his way to the airport, Hofmann dropped Jensen at Wilding’s office. 
He gave him the flight information. Before Jensen had even reached the 
office, however, Hofmann called Wilding from his car phone. “Sid seems 
real nervous about something,” Hofmann said. “If he wants me to buy 
$20,000 of his investment in the ‘Oath,’ I'll be glad to do it.” 

Wilding, who had had his own nervous flutters, was noncommittal. “I 
can't answer for Mr. Jensen. I'll have to talk to him.” 

Jensen, in fact, was way past nervous; he was mad. As soon as he 
returned to Wilding’s office, he recruited Gary Smith, another investor 
in Hofmann’s project, to help him investigate Hofmann's elusive financial 
situation. Smith immediately called Harvey Tanner at First Interstate 
Bank. Tanner wouldn't give specifics, but he did say that Hofmann had 
“a large, outstanding loan that he can't seem to pay.” Hofmann had lied 
on at least two counts: it was a loan to him personally, and it was a loan 
for a significant sum. Armed with this alarming news, Jensen stalked into 
Wilding's office. 

“Gary Smith thinks that what happened today shows up some inconsis- 
tencies in Mark's story and that we ought to get ahold of him right now 
and find out what the problem is.” They didn't want to say it, but both 
men were thinking the same thing. 

They tried calling Hofmann's house, but there was no answer. 



200 THE MORMON MURDERS 



They called the airport, giving the airline and flight number that Mark 
had given them. There was no such flight at that hour. Maybe he got the 
information wrong. 

They jumped in Wilding's truck and headed for the airport. First, they 
looked for Hofmann; then they drove up and down the parking lots 
looking frantically for his car. 

Maybe he planned to leave later that night. No, there were no more 
flights to Boston or New York. 

They drove to his house. It was 10 o’clock. He wasn’t there. 



After a sleepless night, Wilding drove to Hofmann’s house 
at 5:30 the next morning, Friday, the 13th of September. 
He had to wait an hour until Smith arrived. He wanted a witness. 

Dorie answered the door. “What’s going on?” she said, obviously con- 
cerned. The harassment was starting earlier and earlier in the day. 

“We need to talk with your husband.” 

“Mark’s in the shower,” she said quickly, heading them off at the door 
to the back hall. “I’ll tell him you’re here.” 

Eventually, Hofmann came out, his hair wet and neatly combed. 
“What’s the big deal?” he asked. 

Wilding could barely control his rage. “I’ll tell you what the big deal 
is. There are a lot of things you’ve been telling us that don’t add up. You’re 
supposed to be on a flight to Boston, but there isn’t any such flight. You’re 
supposed to get the money to Lyn, but you’re still here. What’s going on? 
Where’s the money?” 

Hofmann looked at them with a startled, slightly wounded expression. 
How could they distrust him so? “No problem. I still have the money, and 
I’m going today. I was going to go yesterday but I decided to go today, 
and I’m taking my son.” That was a reminder: his family was in the house. 

“I don’t care anymore,” Wilding shot back, unappeased. “The deal’s 
off. You haven’t done what you said you were going to do, and there’s no 
way we’re going through with the deal. There’s no way we want to invest 
this money. We just want our money back. If you’ve still got the money, 
go get it.” 




TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 201 



Mark went downstairs, and came back with the back portion of a 
cashier’s check made out to Lyn Jacobs the day before for $154,000. “I 
already sent the check,” he said. 

But he had just said he was leaving with the money later that day. More 
lies, Wilding thought. “Mark, 1 have a lot at stake here. I have investors 
who trust me, and 1 trusted you, and now there are obviously some 
problems.” 

Dorie broke in. She had heard the heated voices. She knew something 
was wrong. “Mark, what’s going on?” 

He dismissed her. “Let me handle this.” 

Then Mark finally began to realize what was going on. “You can’t turn 
down a good deal,” he said, suddenly, obviously anxious, his voice edging 
toward petulance. “You can’t turn down a good deal.” 

“We can, and we are,” said Wilding firmly. “We want our money back. 
And I’m going to stay with you until I get it.” 

Hofmann tried another expression: indifference. “Well, okay, no prob- 
lem. I’ve got other investors who will take the investment with no problem 
at all. We can go to the bank and get your money. I’ll meet you at the 
bank at 10:30.” 

Wilding had had enough of his tricks. “I’m not leaving here, Mark. You 
and I will go to the bank together. ” 

They rode together in Hofmann’s Toyota to the Rocky Mountain State 
Bank. Hofmann’s account contained only $18,000 — $160,000 less than 
they had given him the day before. He hadn’t gone to Boston, he hadn’t 
bought the “Oath,” and the money was gone. 

“Where’s the rest of the money?” Wilding demanded, irate by now. 

Hofmann avoided answering him directly. “You’ll get your money 
back.” 

“Let’s get it back now. ” 

Hofmann said he had several business appointments that day. (But he 
was supposed to go to Boston today, Wilding thought.) He could call in 
some debts while he was out and meet Wilding back at his office with 
the money. 

No sale. Wilding wanted to be right there with him the whole day. 
Who knew what other creditors, like Harvey Tanner, were waiting out 
there to grab anything Mark put his hands on? Wilding wanted to make 
sure that every dollar came to him first. “Look, Mark,” he said, “1 don’t 
care who you call or what you do. Just get our money back. What you 
do from there is up to you.” 

Finally, he had evoked a reaction: Hofmann began to tremble. 



202 THE MORMON MURDERS 



* * * 

The first stop was Deseret Book. 

Wade Lillywhite and Curt Bench, Lillywhite's boss, had never seen 
Mark Hofmann so distraught. He was usually so calm, so detached, so in 
control. The first thing Lillywhite said, even before “Hi,” was “What's 
wrong?” 

“I’m in a little difficulty,” Hofmann said, lowering his voice. “I need 
some money right away and wanted to talk to you about the possibility 
of a loan. A fairly large sum of money.” 

Hofmann was always pulling strange stunts, but this one puzzled even 
two longtime associates like Lillywhite and Bench. Just the other day, he 
had been in the store with a $100,000 check to cover a previous purchase. 
They knew the documents business had its ups and downs, but how could 
Hofmann have $100,000 one day and need a loan the next? 

“How much do you want to borrow?” 

“One hundred thousand.” 

Curiouser and curiouser, thought Lillywhite. 

“Til give you my collection of children's books as collateral.” 

Bench and Lillywhite both knew the collection well, and knew it was 
worth at least that much. 

“I'll pay good interest.” They had never heard Hofmann so eager. It 
sounded like more than just “a little difficulty.” 

There was a problem, though. Hofmann still owed them $16,000. The 
recent $100,000 check hadn't covered the entire debt from the previous 
deal. 

“I've got that for you,” he said quickly. 

“I'll have to talk to my boss about the loan,” said Bench. “Come back 
later this afternoon.” 

Hofmann got back in the car with Tom Wilding. Next stop: A1 Rust. 

Rust wasn't at his coin shop, he was manning a booth at the Utah Coin 
Show being held at the Salt Palace, a sports arena and convention center 
not far from Temple Square. Hofmann ran frantically from aisle to aisle 
until he found him. “I've got to talk to you,” Hofmann called out as he 
approached, obviously agitated, trying to catch his breath. Rust later 
recalled it was the first time he had ever seen fear on Hofmann's face. 

Rust noticed a man following Mark, standing a few paces back. “Let's 
go into the foyer,” Hofmann suggested. Once they were outside, Mark 
threw his hands in the air in sheer exasperation. “Things are terrible. I'm 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 203 

losing everything,” he wailed. ‘‘They’re coming to get my car, my home!” 
“What’s the matter?” 

“1 borrowed $185,000 from a bank, and they’re foreclosing on me 
today. They’re on their way to lock my home up and take my car and 
everything. I’m going to lose my home and everything.” It was unnerving 
to see Mark — cool, collected Mark — suddenly panic-stricken. 

“Calm down,” said Rust. “You’re running in every direction at once, 
just settle down and tell me what’s going on.” Then suddenly it struck 
him what Hofmann was saying, and what it meant to him and the money 
Mark owed him. The kindly, avuncular coin dealer was transformed 
instantly into the stern father. “You still owe me $132,000, and now 
you’re telling me you owe a bank $185,000? What is going on?” 

No matter how distraught, Hofmann always had an answer. “I bor- 
rowed that money to buy the ‘Oath of a Freeman,’ ” he said. “I’m getting 
a million dollars for it. Also I have half ownership on a document that’s 
in a safe-deposit box in New York.” 

“My goodness, Mark, how can you get in these predicaments?” 
“The government promised to pay me by September 1, and then I was 
going to pay you. But the bank is foreclosing. They’ve seen my check to 
you, so they know I owe you $132,000, and they know I owe them 
$185,000, so they’re locking me out.” He was practically in tears. 

Then he asked for a loan. 

With $132,000 in uncollectable debt, a bad check sitting at his bank, 
and a second mortgage on his home, Rust had every right to say no — car 
or no car. But A1 Rust took his Mormon faith very seriously, especially 
at times of crisis. So, reaching deep into his heart, he found one last 
measure of sympathy. 

“I don’t have any more money to help you,” he said. “If I did, I would, 
but I just don’t have it. But maybe I can help you arrange someone to 
loan you what you need. Let’s meet in five hours to see if we can figure 
out somebody to help us.” It was so much like A1 Rust to say “us.” 
“Now, just calm yourself,” he added as Mark left. “There’s got to be 
a solution to all this.” 

The next stop on Hofmann’s desperate itinerary was the Union Park 
Center in Midvale, south of the city, where his cousin, Ken Woolley, 
worked. Again, Hofmann asked for privacy. Reluctantly, Wilding agreed, 
remaining behind in the futuristic lobby, watching to make sure the 
elevator stopped at the right floor. 

To Woolley, Hofmann seemed “in a panic.” 



204 THE MORMON MURDERS 



'Tin in big financial trouble,” he said. “I borrowed $185,000 from the 
bank. I was expecting to pay it back with the sale of the 'Oath of a 
Freeman/ but the Library of Congress didn’t want to buy it. I’ m desper- 
ate. I’m willing to sell it for $250,000. Do you think you might be 
interested?” 

Woolley had had his share of problems with his cousin’s crazy invest- 
ment schemes. Mark still owed him $68,000 on one of them. He wasn’t 
even slightly enticed by the offer and promptly said so. 

"Well, I’ve got to get some money some place to pay this bank off. I 
wrote them a check, and it’s gonna bounce.” 

"You what ?” Woolley had come to the conclusion months before 
that Mark was a liar and a cheat, but he didn’t think he was stupid too. 
"Why did you write them a check? You can’t do that. It’s illegal. It’s a 
criminal violation. It’s much better to default on a loan than to write a 
bad check.” 

But Hofmann didn’t seem to be listening. 

"What you’ve got to do, Mark, is sit down and do a financial statement 
of all your assets and liabilities. Then go to the bank and say, 'This is what 
I’ve got, this is how I’m gonna work it out.’ I’ll be happy to go to the bank 
with you.” 

That wasn’t the kind of help Hofmann was looking for. 

The options were running out. 

They drove back to Deseret Book. Ron Millett, the president, wanted 
to think about the loan over the weekend. That was too late, said Hof- 
mann. Millett agreed to see him later that afternoon. 

At one point, Hofmann pulled Wade Lillywhite aside. "I can’t wait till 
Monday,” he said in an urgent whisper. 

"If the deal doesn’t go through and Deseret Book can’t give you the 
money, let me know and I think I can line you up with somebody who 
can get you the money.” 

"Fine,” said Hofmann. Finally, a breath of hope. 

When he came out, he told Wilding, "They’re contemplating invest- 
ing in the document and they want to meet again at four to make the 
decision.” 

Back to the Salt Palace for a second meeting with Rust. Again, Hofmann 
and Rust went to the foyer to talk privately. Rust, who was rushing to get 
away for a fishing trip to Boulder Mountain, had only made a few phone 
calls — all unsuccessful. But he did have a suggestion. 

"Since the Mormon Church has got the McLellin Collection, why 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 205 



don’t you go to them and see if they will lend you some money against 
it until you get paid for the ‘Oath’ and can bail yourself out?” 

Hofmann had a better idea. Ever since he gave Rust that rubber check 
for $132,000, Rust’s bank had been monitoring Hofmann’s account, 
waiting for funds to come in to make it good. If Rust would pull back that 
check, Hofmann would have a little more breathing space in which to 
work things out. 

Rust agreed, but not without a stern warning. “Listen very carefully,” 
he said. “I’m giving you till November 1. If you don’t pay me the 
$132,000 by November 1, I’m taking action. Number one, I’ll go back to 
the Mormon Church. Number two, I’ll go to a lawyer. And number three, 
if I go to a lawyer, they’re going to subpoena the Church, because the 
people there have a lot of answers to give.” 

Every time Rust mentioned the Church, he could see Mark flutter a 
bit. “If you give me that thirty days, there won’t be a problem,” Mark 
said earnestly. 

But Rust wasn’t finished. “The first mistake you make, I’m taking 
action — if you don’t check in regularly, nearly every day. Or if you sell 
even one item for $5,000 and you don’t turn the money over to me. I don’t 
want you waiting until you accumulate $132,000. You go ahead and pay 
me the $5,000.” 

“Hey,” said Hofmann, suddenly blithe, “no problem.” 

When he rejoined Wilding, Hofmann told him that Rust had come up 
with the name of someone he thought would put $50,000 into the 
deal. 

Back to Deseret Book for the 4 o’clock meeting with Ron Millett. Wild- 
ing waited downstairs while Hofmann met with him for half an hour. 
Millett had reservations. Several times over the last few months Hofmann 
had “pulled a few real bad stunts,” according to Millett. He wasn’t sure 
he wanted to do business with him any longer. And then there was the 
$16,000 of outstanding debt. He wanted to think about it over the 
weekend. 

But next week was too late. 

Hofmann reported to Wilding: “They wanted until Monday to make 
a decision, and I told them, ‘Look, either make a decision today or forget 
it.’ ” 

“Well, as far as 1 am concerned,” said Wilding, “any investor con- 
fronted with that kind of decision would say forget it.” 

About 6:30, they drove back to Wilding’s office, where Sid Jensen was 



206 THE MORMON MURDERS 



waiting for them. When it was clear that the day had produced nothing, 
Jensen began to boil. 

“Where's our money?" he demanded. 

“Back East," said Hofmann, suddenly, preternaturally calm. “One of 
my associates took the money to Boston and purchased the 'Oath,' You 
saw the cashier's check today — the one made out to Lyn Jacobs." 

More lies. Jensen was fuming. First he said he was going to take the 
money back East himself yesterday, then he said he was taking it today, 
now he says he sent the money back East in the hands of an associate. 
It was all contradictions, evasions, and lies, and Sid Jensen had had 
enough of it. 

Gary Smith had written out a list of accusations, and he fired them at 
Hofmann. 

“Did you lie about the Brigham Young papers?" 

“Yeah" 

“Did you lie about having bought the 'Oath?' " 

“Yeah." 

“Did you lie about using the money we gave you to purchase 'The 
Haunted Man'?" 

“Yeah." 

But he insisted that the latest deal was for real. He had, in fact, used 
the money they gave him yesterday to purchase the “Oath" from Lyn 
Jacobs for approximately $420,000, and he was willing to sign a statement 
to that effect. But when they requested a receipt, he couldn't produce one. 

“Why didn't you tell us all this earlier?" Wilding demanded. 

“I didn't want to squelch the deal." 

Jensen wanted to know only one thing: “How are you going to get our 
money back?" 

Hofmann remained very cool. “I have other people who want to invest. 
I'll raise the money." 

They didn't believe him. 

“I'm telling you the truth," he insisted. “The money was sent back East 
to Lyn Jacobs. To be honest with you, the ‘Oath of a Freeman' should 
have been purchased by four this afternoon." 

“And how did you get the money there?" 

“I sent it with one of my associates," he repeated. 

“What's his name?” 

“I prefer not to tell you." 

That was clearly more than Sid Jensen could take. He had sat through 
the detached arrogance, the smug looks, the nerdy grins long enough. It 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 207 



wasn't just any money Hofmann was talking about, it was the money they 
had paid him for his arm. If anybody knew life could be unfair, he did, 
but to watch this arrogant little twerp gloat over his loss was unendurable. 

“I don't think you’re taking seriously what we're talking about," Jensen 
spat, and before anybody could stop him, raised his one arm and slugged 
Hofmann in the face. 

There was a moment of stunned silence. 

“No one's ever struck me before," Hofmann whimpered, his voice so 
high and soft that everyone in the room thought he sounded like a little 

girl. 

After that, the meeting turned strangely businesslike, the calm after the 
storm. Hofmann owed Wilding's investors some $200,000, plus $100,000 
promised profit. They had a lot of books and documents as collateral, but 
they wanted their money, as soon as possible. 

They wrote up an agreement that required Hofmann to produce all the 
money, plus the $160,000 that had supposedly gone into “The Haunted 
Man," by the following Tuesday, September 17, at 3:30. Hofmann, Wild- 
ing, and Jensen all signed. 

Wilding was skeptical. How could Mark raise that kind of money in 
that short time? 

But Hofmann was confident. “Don't worry. I’ll do it. I don't need any 
more time than that." 

He had just one request. Could they keep everything confidential? 
After all, his business was built on reputation and without his reputation, 
he couldn't raise the money. And they did want their money back, didn't 
they? Of course, neither Wilding nor Jensen thought much of Hofmann's 
reputation any longer, but they saw the dilemma. If word of this scam got 
out, he wouldn't be able to raise enough money for a phone call. So they 
agreed: no inquiries, no letters, no lawyers, and, certainly, no police. At 
least until Tuesday. 

Tom Wilding walked out of the meeting that night thinking, This is 
a Friday the 13th I'll never forget. 

Mark Hofmann, apparently, felt differently. Early the next morning, he 
called Wade Lillywhite, waking him up. “Never mind about that loan," 
he said cheerily. “It's all been taken care of." 



208 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Everybody took Sunday off. Mark Hofmann went to church 
with his wife and children. So did Al Rust, Tom Wilding, 
Sid Jensen, Brent Ashworth, Steve Christensen, and, of course, Hugh 
Pinnock and Gordon Hinckley. 

But the next day, the heat was on again. 

Ron Millett of Deseret Book called to say “no go" on the loan. 

By Tuesday evening, the 17th, Hofmann was back in front of Tom 
Wilding. It was obvious from the moment he shambled in that he didn't 
have the money. Wilding hadn't really expected that he would. That's 
why he had arranged to meet in the offices of his attorney, John Ashton. 

Ashton had the papers already drawn up. 

The agreement terminated the partnership and put Hofmann in a strict 
debtor-creditor relationship with Wilding's group. According to its terms, 
Hofmann not only agreed to pay back all the money invested, but also the 
fantastical gains that he had reported over the months. Wilding was out 
for blood. He was determined to make Hofmann eat his words: 100 
percent gain in one month! Indeed. Hofmann signed two promissory 
notes: one for $188,488, due September 17, and one for $266,667, due 
October 16. Total: $455,155. And just in case that wasn't enough to put 
the fear of God into him, there was a penalty clause: $2,000 per day per 
note. 

The first penalty clause kicked in on October 15. 

Wilding also wanted more collateral. He wanted the deed to Hof- 
mann's house and the titles to his cars. 

Hofmann agreed — readily, submissively. 

They wanted the second “Oath of a Freeman." 

Hofmann gulped. “I can't. That needs to remain confidential." 

“I'll put it in my safe-deposit box," Wilding said. “No one has to 
know." 

They wanted a list of all his other debts: liens on the house? None, said 
Hofmann. Outstanding loans? Just the one at First Interstate Bank for 
$185,000. Other assets? The first “Oath" was being sold to the New York 
Public Library for $1.5 million. Seventy-five percent of that was his. 

They wanted it. 




TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 209 



This was hardball. “/'</ never sign this agreement,” Wilding said to 
himself. But this was the only way, apparently, to show Mark that they 
were dead serious, that they weren't playing games; the only way, it 
seemed, to wipe that smirk off his face. “We want to get this thing taken 
care of,” he told Hofmann with all the gravity he could muster. “You 
seem to have lots of financial backing somewhere. So just do it.” 

Back at Wilding's office, the ordeal continued. Gary Smith had some 
more questions. 

“Is this a systematic scheme to defraud people out of their money?” 
“No, it isn't,” Hofmann said emphatically. He seemed offended at the 
suggestion. 

“Do you intend to cheat and not pay back any of these funds?” 

“I intend to pay back the money.” 

“Have you lied to Tom?” 

Hofmann didn't answer. 

The meeting was over — and still no one had threatened to call the 
police. 

The next morning, Hofmann brought the second copy of the “Oath” to 
Wilding's bank. As they left, Hofmann repeated, “1 don't want any of the 
other people involved to know you've got this.” 

Wilding didn't care. “As long as we get our money, that's fine.” 



In mid-September, Hofmann received a call from Kenneth 
Rendell, who happened to be in Topeka, Kansas, that day 
on business. He wanted to make sure that he had correctly understood 
an order that Mark had left with his secretary in Massachusetts the 
week before. The order was for an Egyptian Book of the Dead in hie- 
ratic script, the shorthand, abstracted version of the more famous, more 
pictorial hieroglyphic form of Egyptian writing. He had also specified 
that he wanted it from the first century a.d., if possible, and he wanted 
it on papyrus. 

To Rendell, it seemed like a very strange request. 

“Why do you want this?” he began. “Because, you know, if your client 
really knows anything about this stuff, it isn't good quality, and if they 




210 THE MORMON MURDERS 



really know nothing about it, theyTe going to want hieroglyphics instead 
of hieratics." But Hofmann was insistent. He knew what he wanted. 

On September 16, Rendell mailed him, on thirty-day consignment, two 
examples of hieratic script on first-century papyrus, one eight by twenty- 
four inches, the other, nine by three. The discounted price for both: 
$10,500. 

It looked like the real thing to Wade Lillywhite of Deseret Book: a small 
fragment from an Egyptian Book of the Dead , written in hieratics rather 
than hieroglyphics, on papyrus rather than linen. Lillywhite considered 
himself something of an amateur Egyptologist — no expert certainly, but 
knowledgeable enough to know this fragment was from about the first or 
second century a.d. — the Roman period. It wasn't such a surprising skill 
for a rare-book dealer in Salt Lake City, Utah. Despite being thousands 
of years and half a world away from the Nile Delta, the Mormons consider 
themselves "spiritually related" to the Egyptians through the religious 
writings that their Prophet "translated." Anything Egyptian has a certain 
cachet. 

According to Mark Hofmann, however, this piece of papyrus had more 
than just cachet; it had real religious significance. He was offering to sell 
Lillywhite one of the very papyri that Joseph Smith had used in translating 
the Book of Abraham. 

“Where did you get this, Mark?" Lillywhite thought there was a slim 
chance Mark might answer. 

Hofmann smiled. "It's from the McLellin Collection." 

A few days later, Lillywhite went to the CFS offices in the old Auerbach’s 
building to appraise Steve Christensen’s book collection. Christensen 
knew he would have to declare bankruptcy and was selling off his most 
precious asset to pay debtors. While there, Lillywhite happened to men- 
tion that Hofmann was "shopping around" important papyri from the 
McLellin Collection. 

Christensen went white. 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 211 



By October, Hugh Pinnock and Steve Christensen were 
close to panic. Hofmann was a month behind on a loan 
that was unorthodox to begin with; he had been buying and selling 
documents all over town, running up unknown but probably huge new 
debts; there were articles in the paper daily, it seemed, about the sup- 
posedly still secret McLellin Collection, some of them saying that Mark 
Hofmann had sold the Collection to a third party. The Mormon under- 
ground was already salivating over the juiciest rumors and, worst of all, 
the Collection was still “out there,” somewhere in the great Mormon- 
bashing unknown, ready to spring any minute onto the pages of the Los 
Angeles Times. 

And to top it off, Christensen had learned that Hofmann was peddling 
bits and pieces of the Collection around town. 

On October 2, after weeks of bounced checks, broken appointments, 
and unreturned phone calls, Christensen finally tracked Hofmann down 
and convinced him that his only hope of salvation was to face Hugh 
Pinnock and make a full confession. “If you want to win your way back 
into Church favor,” Christensen admonished him, “this is the only way.” 
Hofmann, surprisingly contrite, agreed, and the two of them drove to 
Hugh Pinnock's house at 10:30 that night. 

“Tell Elder Pinnock your problem,” Christensen prodded, drawing on 
his experience as a bishop. 

Throughout the “confession,” Hofmann's eyes remained riveted to the 
floor. “I'm not going to get the million and a half for the ‘Oath of a 
Freeman,' ” he told them. Why not? “Because the Library of Congress 
is having problems authenticating it.” 

“What else, Mark?” Christensen pressed. 

“I won't be able to make a donation of the McLellin Collection.” 

What else, Mark? 

“1 pledged the Collection to A1 Rust as security on a loan of $1 50,000.” 

And? 

“And I didn't use the money to pay off the loan you arranged. I 
purchased other documents with it.” 

Anything else? 




212 THE MORMON MURDERS 



“I owe some money to a doctor/' 

Any other debts? 

“No.” 

Pinnock took off his glasses in the traditional gesture of candor. He 
wanted to know about Mark's agreement with A1 Rust. Hofmann said he 
was to repay $150,000 and then Rust would release the Collection. Hof- 
mann had one key to the safe-deposit boxes where it was stashed, but two 
keys were required and Rust had the other one — and Rust was out of 
town. 

Was there any money coming in? 

Yes, said Mark. “The American Antiquarian Society has offered 
$250,000 for the ‘Oath.' I ll get $150,000 from it.” 

Pinnock seemed to care about only two things, the McLellin Collection 
and the loan. Which was not unreasonable, considering that his reputa- 
tion, his standing within the First Presidency, his chances for advance- 
ment, even his position in the Celestial Kingdom were on the line. He 
told Hofmann to use the $150,000 from the “Oath” to pay off Rust. In 
the meantime, Pinnock would find someone else to buy the Collection 
and donate it to the Church. 

By the time they were finished, Hofmann looked close to tears. “What 
will President Hinckley think of me?” he lamented. “I just wish I was still 
in a position to donate the documents to the Church.” To demonstrate 
his contrite heart, he told them about $20,000 that he had been paid that 
morning. A friend had the check, but he would pick it up that very same 
evening and deliver it to Harvey Tanner the next morning. 

Christensen volunteered to go with him. 

It was midnight by the time they arrived at Shannon Flynn's house. 
Flynn came to the door groggy but handed Hofmann the check without 
complaint. Using Mark's car phone, Christensen called Pinnock. “I've got 
the check in my pocket.” 

The next evening about eight, Christensen returned to Temple Square for 
a meeting at the First Presidency building. On his way, he stopped at a 
video store in the Crossroads Mall and bought a videotape of a “Miami 
Vice” episode — “just to get in the mood for this event,” he told a friend 
the next day. 

The event was a meeting with Church bosses to discuss “the Hofmann 
problem.” Clearly the Church had another crisis on its hands. 

The meeting opened in Pinnock's office, then moved to the office of 
Dallin Oaks, Pinnock's supervisor and one of the Twelve. Then all three 



TOO COOD TO BE TRUE 213 



men walked to Gordon Hinckley’s office. He, after all, was the master of 
damage control. Hinckley was emphatic that the Church still wanted the 
McLellin Collection. Finally, they asked Christensen to go back to Pin- 
nock’s office and wait while they conferred. 

The jury was out only ten minutes. Pinnock came back alone. 

"You know, Steve,” he began in his most patronizing tone, "President 
Hinckley paid you a great compliment. He said, 'We can totally trust that 
young man.’ ” Trust to do what? 

The Church had a very special mission for Steve Christensen, Pinnock 
began. Mark Hofmann had demonstrated beyond a doubt that there were 
dozens, perhaps hundreds of documents still out there waiting to be 
discovered, many of which could harm the Church. There were now 
rumors that he had leads on the missing 116 pages, the seer stones, the 
Urim and Thummim, perhaps even the gold plates themselves. Such 
discoveries could hurt the Church in many ways. What if there was 
evidence that Smith had plagiarized Solomon Spaulding’s romance in 
writing the Book of Mormon ? What if Emma Smith did say, as Hofmann 
had indicated in his description of the McLellin Collection, that there was 
no First Vision? What if there was further proof of folk magic and 
profiteering, not just by Smith, but by his entire family? 

These things were out there , the Brethren believed, and it was no longer 
acceptable just to leave them for the Mark Hofmanns of the world to dig 
up and sell to the highest bidder. The Church should be actively pursuing 
these bombshells itself — preventive damage control. The Brethren, espe- 
cially Hinckley, believed they could no longer trust Hofmann. "We think 
he’s too concerned with making a profit,” said Pinnock. "We question his 
intentions. We don’t think he is being totally honest with us. We are 
interested in finding someone who would handle these documents with 
the Church’s concerns in mind.” 

Someone like Steve Christensen. 

They had decided to commission Christensen to search for documents 
on behalf of the Church. They would extend to him a $500,000 line of 
credit and provide him with any services he needed. (In particular, Pin- 
nock repeated the offer of an armored car.) This was to be a highly secret 
mission, said Pinnock. No one must know for obvious reasons. "You are 
not even to keep a private journal of your acquisition activities for the 
Church — that’s how secret it must stay.” 

The next morning, October 4, the Church swung ponderously into action. 

At 7:30, President Hinckley met briefly with Mark Hofmann. 



214 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Christensen may have been there too. The purpose, undoubtedly, 
was to remind Hofmann, in the gravest terms, of his Temple covenants. 

At 9:30, Pinnock met with Dallin Oaks. The purpose of the meeting: 
to identify a reliable “collector" to buy the McLellin Collection and 
donate it to the Church. Pinnock called David E. Sorensen, a wealthy 
Mormon businessman who had recently sold his hospital business and was 
therefore “very liquid." He was serving as mission president in Nova 
Scotia. The two men had known each other since the 1950s. Their wives 
had been college roommates. Just as Pinnock had expected, Sorensen 
agreed immediately. If Hugh Pinnock said the money was needed, then 
he would provide it. 

Arrangements were made on the spot. Sorensen, through his attorney, 
David West, would purchase the Collection from Hofmann for $185,000. 
He would then donate the Collection to the Church, keeping it in his 
possession only long enough to let the brouhaha die down and, of course, 
maximize the tax benefits. The sale was scheduled for the next week at 
David West's office, and both Hofmann and Rust were to be present. 

Sorensen asked only one thing: that someone be on hand to authenti- 
cate the documents. Pinnock said he had just the man. 

At 1 1 :30, Pinnock met with Steve Christensen, who agreed to authenti- 
cate the documents at the exchange. According to the plan, he would then 
put the Collection in a safe-deposit box under his name. (That day, he 
rented two boxes at the First Interstate Bank.) At the meeting, Pinnock 
railed against Hofmann. Oaks and Hinckley both agreed with him, he 
said, that Mark was “a crook" who was trying to “rip ofF" the Church. 
Christensen gingerly suggested that perhaps it wasn't dishonesty, just hard 
times. “Mark has hit some financial difficulties recently," said Chris- 
tensen. That would account for the lies. It wasn't exemplary, but it wasn't 
necessarily evil. 

By the end of the day, everything was ready. Now they could only wait 
for A1 Rust to return with his key. 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 215 



Meanwhile, frantic, Mark Hofmann scoured Salt Lake City 
for money. After leaving the meeting with Hinckley, he 
went to Glen Rowe, who had succeeded Don Schmidt as Church archi- 
vist, and sold him a Book of Common Prayer that had been signed by 
Martin Harris. The price: a paltry $700 in trade. The next day, the 5th, 
he drove to Ken Woolley's office in Midvale. Woolley had never seen his 
cousin so desperate. He needed to borrow $20,000. 

After their last deal, Woolley had vowed never to do business with 
Mark again, but Hofmann was pleading with him. This wasn't a deal, it 
was just a loan. And he had with him a fistful of Deseret currency to put 
up as collateral. These were the same notes Woolley had seen in A1 Rust's 
book on Mormon money so he knew they were valuable. And Mark 
promised to pay him back within a week. Woolley wrote out the check. 

From Midvale, Hofmann drove back into town to the Hotel Utah, 
where he met with Shannon Flynn and Wilford Cardon in a room with 
a spectacular view of Temple Square. Cardon had chosen today of all days 
to fly in from Arizona and “settle accounts." Hofmann calmly recounted 
his sale of the Jim Bridger notes: ten to Brent Ashworth, two to Charles 
Hamilton, and one at auction, for a total of $52,602. Cardon wanted his 
share of the profits immediately so Flynn wrote out a check for $19,034, 
knowing the check would bounce unless Hofmann made it good. (It 
bounced.) 

Sunday was all quiet except for a phone call from Ken Rendell in 
Massachusetts. He called Brent Ashworth to say he was planning a trip 
West and would be seeing clients in Salt Lake City, including Hofmann. 
Ashworth relayed the good news to Mark. 

At nine the next morning, in a three-way phone conversation, David 
West, David Sorensen, and Steve Christensen discussed ways in which 
the McLellin Collection could be kept secret. Christensen reported that 
Rust had not seen many of the papers in the Collection but may have seen 
some. All agreed that Rust was a potential problem. Christensen said he 
would question Hofmann for more details on the extent of Rust's knowl- 
edge. 




216 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Christensen wasn't the only one with questions for Hofmann. Brent 
Ashworth wanted to know what had happened to the money Mark owed 
him for two Missouri elder's licenses he had agreed to sell. Hofmann had 
called him that morning to say he had the money and would bring it by 
his office in Spanish Fork at eleven. Ashworth had delayed plans to drive 
to Salt Lake City to be there when Mark arrived. 

At eleven, he called instead. “I'm tied up, but I'll be there at one, with 
the money." 

Ashworth was sick of Hofmann's shenanigans and told him so. But he 
agreed to wait until one. Hofmann did show up at one — without the 
money. Ashworth couldn't believe it. He had waited around all morning 
for nothing. He struggled to contain his anger — “Don't blow the deal," 
he repeated to himself. 

As always, Mark had an excuse: “I sold the document once, but that 
deal fell through. So I had to resell the document. That's why so much 
time has passed." Ashworth listened and promised himself — not for the 
first time — that he would never do business with Mark Hofmann again. 
All he wanted now was his money back. 

“The guy I just sold it to will have the money by this evening," 
Hofmann said. “Can I bring the money down tomorrow morning at 10 
o’clock?" 

But the next morning, Hofmann had other fires to put out. 

Just after eight, Robert Pitts was sitting at the conference table in Steve 
Christensen's office in the Judge Building. While Pitts and Christensen 
were talking, a man walked in and asked to speak to Christensen “pri- 
vately." Without introducing him, Christensen took the man into the 
outer office. Their conversation was hushed but heated. 

Suddenly, Pitts heard Christensen's voice, loud and agitated. “You 
can ' thide that!” Then the conversation receded again into angry, unintel- 
ligible whispers. A few minutes later, Pitts saw the man leave “in a solemn 
mood," and Christensen came back into the office with a grave look on 
his face. Not a word was said about the strange encounter. Only later did 
Pitts learn that the visitor was Mark Hofmann. 

Later the same morning, while Brent Ashworth waited impatiently in 
Spanish Fork, Hofmann met with Hugh Pinnock to review the Joseph 
Smith papyri that Hofmann said came from the McLellin Collection. As 
soon as Hofmann left the meeting, Pinnock picked up the phone and gave 
status reports to Sorensen, Oaks, Christensen, and, at 10:30, Gordon 
Hinckley. Then he met with Oaks and perhaps Hinckley to compare 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 217 



Hofmann's papyri with photographs of the other Book of Abraham papyri 
the Church had reluctantly acquired in 1967. There wasn't an Egyptolo- 
gist among them, but they had to admit the two papyri looked troublingly 
similar. 

The next task on the agenda was to solidify the Church’s alliance with 
Christensen. The solution: the usual mutual back scratching. If Hinckley’s 
itch was Hofmann, Steve's itch was money. He was in the process of 
declaring bankruptcy and struggling to get his new syndication company 
started. So Pinnock offered a partial bailout: he would find someone to 
buy Christensen's book collection and donate it to Westminster College. 
Christensen would get $100,000, the college would get the books, the 
buyer would get the deduction, and the Church would get some good P.R. 
and the insurance of Steve's gratitude. To throw an appropriately religious 
mantle over the day's dealings, Pinnock closed the meeting with Chris- 
tensen by giving a '‘blessing of comfort" regarding his personal life and 
financial problems. 

Mark Hofmann spent the same afternoon trying to appease Tom Wild- 
ing. He had good news and bad news, he told Wilding. The bad news was 
that the “Arizona deal” was not going to materialize. The good news was 
that an even better deal was in the works with the LDS Church. A 
businessman named Steve Christensen was acting as the Church's agent 
in a “major transaction," Hofmann said, a deal that would yield $185,000. 
The money was already in escrow with an attorney, David West, and 
would be released when the deal closed the next day, October 1 1 . 

Wilding had learned enough to be skeptical. “It must be quite a 
significant thing if it's going to sell for $185,000." 

“Well, it's a very large collection of stuff I've collected over the years. 
There are several boxes, so many boxes that I have to use my van to deliver 
them." 

Sid Jensen was also at the meeting, and he wanted to know why the 
Church would pay $185,000 for odds and ends, the leftovers of Hof- 
mann's collection. 

Hofmann fudged. “There's just so much of it, that I was able to obtain 
that much. It’s worth that much." 

Hofmann offered to give the Wilding group $150,000 from the deal. 

“No," said Jensen, “we want the entire $185,000." 

Later that evening, Kenneth Rendell's secretary, Leslie Kress, received the 
first of several strange phone calls at her home in Cambridge, Massachu- 



218 THE MORMON MURDERS 



setts. A male caller wanted Rendell’s home address. “Leslie, I have a gift 
for Mr. Rendell, and I want to send it to his home/' he said in a high 
voice. When she asked the caller to identify himself, he said his name was 
“Mr. Thornton.” 

Kress was immediately suspicious. She didn’t know a Mr. Thornton. 
Why did he use her first name? How did he get her unlisted phone 
number? Why did he refuse to give any more information? She decided 
not to give out the address. Rendell had just been married and was out 
of town on a honeymoon. Fearing that burglars might be casing his empty 
house, Kress phoned the police and reported the calls. 



The first day of Steve Christensen’s Columbus Day week- 
end, Friday, October 11, began like every other day: look- 
ing for Mark Hofmann. He called David West, Lyn Jacobs, and a 
dozen other names on his list. He wanted to tell him that the meeting 
to transfer the McLellin Collection had been reset for Tuesday, Octo- 
ber 15. 

In fact, Hofmann was in Gordon Hinckley’s office — with yet another 
bombshell. 

Joseph Smith was the butt of many jokes during his lifetime, but none 
more famous than the joke played on him by three men from the town 
of Kinderhook, Illinois. The men cut six sheets of copper into bell shapes, 
inscribed them with crazy letters, corroded them with acid, then buried 
them with some bones in an ancient Indian mound. When they were 
uncovered, in the presence of several Mormons, the plates were taken to 
Joseph Smith, who promptly “translated” a portion of them. They were 
a history of the man whose bones were buried with them in the mound, 
Smith announced, and the man was “a descendant of Ham, through the 
loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.” 

Smith’s “translation” was lost, but one plate was later discovered in the 
Chicago Historical Society Museum, mistakenly labeled “one of the gold 
plates of the Book of Mormon. ” 

In Hinckley’s office, Hofmann claimed to have found not only the 
missing Kinderhook plates, but, far more devastating, Joseph Smith’s 




TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 219 

missing translation. It was in Orson Pratt's handwriting, said Hofmann, 
but it was dictated by Smith. 

That afternoon, when Hofmann recounted the meeting to Lyn Jacobs, 
Jacobs was aghast. “What a smack in the face," he said. “Here's Joseph 
giving an inspired translation of these fake plates. Doesn ’t look good. The 
media will go mad!" 

Hinckley had seen the same thing, Hofmann said. “He promised me 
$150,000 for it all." 

“Is he going to give you cash?" 

“I'll know Tuesday morning." 

Later that day, A1 Rust returned earlier than expected from his fishing trip 
to Boulder Mountain and called Steve Christensen. If at all possible, 
Christensen wanted to complete the McLellin transaction that day and 
not wait until the following Tuesday. He called Hugh Pinnock, who 
canceled his plans to go away for the weekend. David West was put on 
alert. For a few hours, it looked as if the deal might go through. 

But Christensen couldn't find Mark Hofmann. 

He wasn't the only one looking. 

Brent Ashworth wanted his money. 

“I have it," Hofmann had said again over the phone that morning. 

Ashworth was blunt. “You bring it to me. I'm tired of trying to chase 
you down." Mark said he would be there about noon, and Ashworth told 
him to leave the money in the mailbox at his house if no one was home. 
When Ashworth returned from lunch with his family at a nearby pizza 
parlor, he looked in the mailbox. Nothing. 

Lyn Jacobs wanted his money. He had provided the collateral for the 
loan from Hofmann's orthodontist client, Ralph Bailey, and felt entitled 
to some of the profits from the sale of the letters that Bailey had financed. 
In fact, he had his eye on a fabulous 1972 Jaguar that he had seen in the 
showroom of a local dealership. Mark said he would meet him there with 
$10,000 the following Monday, October 14. 

Ken Woolley wanted his money. A week had passed, and Hofmann 
hadn't repaid the $20,000 loan and he hadn't called. Woolley phoned him 
to demand the money. He had learned there was no other way with Mark. 

“That transaction isn't completed yet," Hofmann said. “The buyer 
hasn't returned to Salt Lake yet so I'm still waiting for my money." 

Tom Wilding wanted his money. He had come into the office early that 
morning for a meeting with Hofmann, but Hofmann hadn’t shown up. 



220 THE MORMON MURDERS 



He tried calling Mark on his car phone. No answer. Finally, about 1 1:30 
Hofmann called. Wilding had only one question: "Do you have the 
money?” 

"No, the transaction has been put off until Monday.” 

Wilding was out of patience. "I think you better come up and see me, 
Mark. We need to talk about this. You've been promising dollars for so 
long. We're sick and tired of what's going on.” 

Hofmann pleaded. "The transaction has just been put off until Mon- 
day. I have something 1 think will suffice for over the weekend.” 

When Hofmann got to Wilding's office, he laid a piece of paper on the 
desk. It was a letter on David West's letterhead, confirming that $185,000 
had been placed in an escrow account. Below the statement signed by 
West was another statement, on a different typewriter, noting that the 
funds would be available on October 14. It was signed by Steven F. 
Christensen. 

"You see,” said Hofmann. "Everything is in order. The transaction is 
going to take place.” 

Wilding wanted to show the letter to his lawyer, John Ashton. He and 
Hofmann went together to Ashton's office. 

"Well, I know Steve Christensen,” said Ashton. "Why don't we just 
give him a call and verify this?” 

Hofmann froze. "I don't think that's necessary. If you need to do it to 
verify the deal, let me do the talking while you listen.” He said he was 
afraid that anything else might "cause some concerns and . . .” (he rolled 
out the big gun) ". . . possibly even stop the transaction from going 
through.” 

"Well, we'll give you a little bit of time,” said Ashton, trying to screw 
the word little into a threat. If Hofmann didn't come through with the 
money, he now had a weapon to threaten him with. 

"I'll have the money for you on the 14th,” Hofmann vowed solemnly. 

A1 Rust wanted his money. On Saturday, Hofmann came into his store 
and announced, "We finally got the McLellin Collection settled. We've 
got a buyer for the Collection, but for a lot less than before. It's $185,000, 
and we're selling it to a man who's a mission president in Europe.” 

Rust had heard so many stories, he gave this latest one little credence. 

But Hofmann was persistent. "Now the money will be sent immedi- 
ately,” he said. "It will probably be here Wednesday or Thursday. Are you 
going to be here Wednesday or Thursday?” 

"Oh, yeah,” said Rust, relaxed after the serenity of Boulder Mountain. 
"I'm here all week.” 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 221 

‘Til keep you informed. But it’s definite. We will have the 
money.” 

Well, thought Rust, one way or another, it will all be settled by Novem- 
ber 1. 

Steve Christensen decided to spend the long weekend at home with his 
family. The months of anxiety over leaving CFS, declaring bankruptcy, 
and pursuing the McLellin Collection for the Church had taken a toll on 
his marriage. Like many wives, Terri Christensen felt that her husband 
didn't give her enough attention, but normally she kept her frustration 
out of sight. Better than anybody, she knew how Steve had suffered 
recently. Telling his father about the failure of CFS (and the loss of his 
investment) had been the hardest thing he had ever done, harder even 
than selling his precious book collection. At least the Church had not 
forced him out of his position as bishop — as he had expected they would. 

But, for Terri, things were different now. She was pregnant with their 
fourth child, and she needed his support. She wasn't willing to look the 
other way when he came home and buried his head in a book. 

The problems came to a head on that Friday night, October 1 1, when 
Terri demanded that they “have a talk." After a week of chasing down 
Mark Hofmann, talking was the last thing Christensen wanted to do. 
When he balked, however, Terri threatened to walk out the door. He had 
put her off long enough. “If you want to go off and do all those things 
when we need you here, okay, but you can’t expect me to sit around here 
and wait for you," she told him flatly. When he still wouldn't listen, she 
made good on the threat: she walked out the door. 

The gesture had stunned Steve enough that, when she returned, he was 
ready to talk. “You're right and I'm wrong," he apologized. “Sure I'm 
worried about money. I’m worried about bankruptcy, about the business. 
But the only thing that's important in life is you and the kids." 

To show he meant it, he went out and rented three videos, one for 
each night of the long weekend, and every night, after the kids went to 
bed, they stayed up late and watched them together. And he never 
even reached for a book. Terri tried to remain level-headed about it 
but couldn't help feeling, in her bones, that this time was different. 
From now on, their life together would be what she had always known 
it could be. 

If Mark Hofmann thought the holiday weekend would bring some relief 
from the pressure, he was wrong. 



222 THE MORMON MURDERS 



On Saturday morning, Brent Metcalfe tried to cash a $1,000 paycheck 
Mark had given him. He had waited for months to be paid and finally had 
to beg to get it, but kept telling himself he should be grateful for the job. 
Then the check bounced. 

That night, Metcalfe set out for Hofmann's house to demand that 
Mark make the check good and pay him the rest of $1,700 he was owed. 
But his car broke down on the freeway and he had to phone his wife, Jill, 
to pick him up. With their daughter, Michala, the Metcalfes finally 
arrived at the Hofmann house on Marie Avenue only to find that Mark 
wasn't there. “He's with Shannon at his lawyer's office writing his will,'' 
Dorie told them. “He'll be right back." 

When Metcalfe called the lawyer's office, however, no one answered. 

Instead of waiting, he and Jill drove back to his stalled Ford Escort and 
tried, unsuccessfully, to revive it. Then they swung back by the Hofmann 
house one last time to see if Mark had returned. Preoccupied by the 
expense of repairing the Escort, Jill Metcalfe missed the turn onto 23rd 
East and was forced to turn around in a church parking lot half a block 
farther on. The lot was empty — except for one car parked all the way to 
one side, near some bushes. Metcalfe recognized it immediately: Mark 
Hofmann’s Toyota MR2. Mark was sitting in the driver’s seat. 

Jill muttered under her breath, “This is psychic." 

She pulled up next to the MR2, and Mark looked up. There was only 
one word for the look on his face: anguish. His eyes seemed “filled with 
stress,” Jill thought. His forehead was creased — so strange for the baby- 
faced Hofmann. He looked “scary." It was definitely the look of a man 
who didn’t want to talk, Jill thought, but Brent got out of the car and 
approached him fearlessly. He opened the door on the passenger side and 
climbed in. 

Hofmann seemed startled. He took the papers he had been poring over 
and hastily turned them face down on the dashboard. 

“Dorie mentioned that you had been working on your will." Metcalfe 
pointed at the papers. 

Hofmann didn’t respond. It was clear even to Metcalfe that he didn't 
want to talk about it. 

“I got a death threat," he said. “There was a call about seven 
this morning. This voice said, 'You’re gonna die. I’m gonna kill 
you.’ ’’ 

Metcalfe didn’t think to ask how this anonymous caller had been lucky 
enough to get Mark on the phone. Like everybody else, Metcalfe had tried 
dozens of times at every hour and never succeeded. It was the subject of 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 223 



black humor among Hofmann's associates: Mark never picked up the 
phone. Except this once, apparently. 

Metcalfe had only one thing on his mind: money. Specifically, the cost 
of repairing the Escort and the pay Hofmann owed him. “Come on, we're 
friends, Mark. 1 don’t want to be begging for my salary. I'm working and 
deserve to be paid. I shouldn’t have to ask all the time. Look, if this is 
too stressful for you, I can go out and find another job.” 

Metcalfe could believe that Hofmann was having a cash-flow problem. 
Dorie was always complaining about how terrible Mark was with money. 
“He takes checks out of the checkbook, and I don’t know how much they 
are,” she had told him, “until it comes back in the statement. One month 
it’s feast, and the next month it’s famine. I go out and buy groceries for 
three months so if it’s famine we’ll at least have food.” 

Perhaps this was just one of those periods of famine, Metcalfe thought. 
Perhaps it was his financial situation, which he always kept so close to his 
chest, that he was going over when they surprised him. 

If Hofmann was going over his financial picture that night in the car, 
it was no wonder his face showed signs of stress. In the next few days, he 
would be expected to repay $455,155 to Wilding’s group, $171,000 to 
First Interstate Bank, $20,000 to Shannon Flynn, $132,000 to A1 Rust, 
$10,000 to Lyn Jacobs, $5,500 to Brent Ashworth, $170,000 to Schiller- 
Wapner, $109,000 to Ralph Bailey, $185,000 as a closing payment on the 
“marvelously livable” house in Cottonwood, and $65,000 in other miscel- 
laneous debts, for a total of $1,322,655, plus, if he didn’t pay the Wilding 
group by the 16th, penalties of $4,000 per day. 

“If it would be easier, you know 1 can always go and get another job,” 
Metcalfe offered sympathetically. 

Hofmann seemed insulted by the suggestion. “With the kind of money 
I make,” he scoffed, “a thousand dollars every couple of weeks doesn’t 
make the slightest difference. I’ll get a check to you tomorrow.” 

Monday morning, October 14, Hofmann called Wade Lillywhite, who 
was vacationing at his parents’ house in California. His voice was frantic 
and far away. 

“I have to sell that papyrus fragment from the Book of Abraham. The 
one we talked about before. I need the money right away, and I have to 
get one hundred thousand for it.” 

“Is it from the McLellin Collection?” 

“Yes.” 

“I’m surprised that you’re selling off pieces of that Collection.” Lilly- 



224 THE MORMON MURDERS 



white had seen Steve Christensen's reaction when he told him about 
Mark's double-dealing. 

“The Church is getting most of it," Hofmann explained, “but there 
are a couple of pieces that I'm going to sell off because I need to raise 
some cash right away.” Lillywhite said he would make some phone calls, 
and Hofmann promised to call him back later that afternoon. 

It may have been a holiday for Lillywhite, but Tom Wilding and John 
Ashton were in Wilding's office at two that afternoon waiting for Mark 
Hofmann to show up. He arrived about 2:45 — a bad start to an already 
difficult meeting. 

Things quickly went from bad to worse. 

First, Hofmann didn't have the additional collateral he had promised. 
He also hadn't brought with him the deed to his house or the titles to 
his vehicles, as he had agreed to do. He didn't have the payment on the 
outstanding balance. He didn't have the legal description of the house 
that Ashton had asked for, or the releases from Dorie and his parents 
(whose names were on the deed). 

All he had were a couple of small checks, one for $10,000 and one for 
$20,000. Wilding earmarked them for the smaller investors. There wasn't 
much else he could do, except make Hofmann promise to bring the legal 
description and releases by Ashton's house later that night so he could 
prepare the documents. 

Mark cheerfully agreed. 

After the meeting, he called California. Lillywhite said he had found 
one person who might be interested in the papyrus but he wanted to find 
out more about it. 

“Never mind,” said Hofmann, eerily calm. “I've found another buyer 
for it.” He did, however, have a page from the original manuscript of the 
Book of Mormon that he wanted to sell for $20,000. Lillywhite told him 
to come by Deseret Book at three on Wednesday. 

That night, Brent Metcalfe visited Hofmann to drop off John Dart's most 
recent article in the LA. Times on the Oliver Cowdery history. Jill and 
Michala stayed in the car while Brent and Mark spent fifteen minutes at 
the kitchen table, ignoring the commotion of Dorie's trying to get the kids 
ready for bed. 

Suddenly, Hofmann ended the discussion. “I hate to rush off like this,” 
he said, reaching for a coat, “but I've got an appointment that I've got 
to go to.” As they left the house, Hofmann saw Jill waiting in the car. 
He went over and leaned in the window. “Gosh, if I'd known you were 



TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 225 

here 1 would have invited you in. I’m sorry. I'm in a rush tonight. I’ve 
got to go.” 

Brent couldn’t help wondering why Mark Hofmann, a man now in his 
thirties, still wore that silly, worn-out high school letter jacket. 

The next morning, October 15, Steve Christensen slept late for the first 
time in months. He lingered in bed until quarter past seven — late for 
him — and, to Terri’s delight, stayed for breakfast. He finally got off about 
7:45 but stopped at the Country Cousins store, next to McDonald’s 
(where his boys were always clamoring to go), and bought two six-packs 
of Tab and a bag of mini-doughnuts. Terri, who was always exhorting him 
to diet, wouldn’t like it, but she couldn’t expect him to change everything 
overnight. 

About the same time Christensen left his house, Mark Hofmann called 
Brent Metcalfe. He sounded much more relaxed than the previous eve- 
ning, Jill Metcalfe thought, as she handed the phone to Brent and rushed 
off to work. They chatted for half an hour, mostly about the L.A. Times 
article and the Cowdery history. 

At 9:30, John Ashton was shocked to hear that Mark Hofmann had 
arrived. The meeting wasn’t until eleven. It was heartening that he would 
come of his own volition, even if he only had more excuses to offer. 
Hofmann apologized for not dropping off the necessary papers the previ- 
ous evening. He hadn’t been able to get a legal description of the house 
yet. 

Ashton got right to the point. He wanted to know if Mark would have 
any money for the 1 1 o’clock meeting. Mark said he was still working on 
it. “We really do have to have the funds today,” Ashton insisted, “and 
the legal description of the house.” 

Parenthetically, Ashton mentioned that he had heard a report on the 
radio as he was driving to work, something about a bombing at the Judge 
Building. 

“Yeah, I heard something about that too,” Hofmann said, interested. 
“Has the name of the victim been released?” 

“I haven’t heard.” 

When Hofmann reappeared, on time again, for the 1 1 o’clock meeting, 
he was clearly upset. “Curt Bench told me that Steve Christensen was the 
person killed,” he told Ashton. Ten minutes later, Tom Wilding came in. 
He, too, was surprised to see Hofmann there. He also thought it strange 
that at this hour he looked as if he had just showered and shaved. 

“Our problem has taken a bizarre turn,” Ashton told Wilding as soon 



226 THE MORMON MURDERS 



as he walked in. “Have you heard on the news that there’s been a bomb- 
ing?” 

“Yeah, I did.” 

“Well, Curt Bench said the person killed was Steve Christensen.” 
Wilding looked over at Hofmann. He was hyperventilating. 



PART THREE 



Lying for 
the Lord 



Janet McDermott arrived early at the Judge Building the 
morning of October 1 5, early enough to find a parking space 
just a few feet from the entrance. So early, in fact, on this slow-starting 
Tuesday after the Columbus Day weekend, that the door was still locked 
and she had to punch in a combination to let herself in. So early that the 
big lobby chandelier hadn't been turned on yet, the store windows inside 
were still dark, and both elevators sat idling on the ground floor. She took 
one to the sixth floor. 

Off the elevator, she turned right and headed down the short, ancillary 
hallway she shared with a new tenant in the building, Steve Christensen. 
As she started to unlock her door on the right side of the hall, she noticed 
a package, wrapped in brown paper, lying in Christensen's doorway on the 
left. It seemed oddly placed — not lying flat, not leaning against the door, 
but standing bolt upright in the doorway. She would have liked to ignore 
it — she had come in at this ungodly hour to get an early start on the day 
and this package looked like an armful. But she and Steve had agreed that 
whoever arrived at the office first in the mornings would pick up the 
other's mail. And a deal was a deal. 

She walked over and bent down to pick it up. That's odd, she thought: 
no stamps, no UPS or Express Mail labels. Besides, it's too early for a 
professional delivery. It must have been left here late last night. But the 
cleaning people usually put packages in the office if they find them outside 
at night. The address wasn't typed, it was hand-lettered with a black 
Magic Marker in big block letters: steve Christensen. Not “Steven 
Christensen" or “Mr. Steven Christensen," just steve Christensen. 
“This looks personal," McDermott said to herself: cookies maybe, or a 
present. “Maybe I better leave it here." At this hour in the morning, 
nobody would disturb it. If Steve hadn't picked it up by the time she went 
out for her first appointment at about eight, she would take it into her 
office. 

At 7:55, she ran down to put more change in the parking meter. When 
she came back, she had just enough time to make a few more phone calls 
and throw some things in her briefcase before setting off for her appoint- 
ment. As she opened the door into the hall, she caught a trailing glimpse 
of Steve Christensen walking toward his office. 




229 



230 THE MORMON MURDERS 



She was just about to say something when she saw the sign on her door: 
turn on your answering machine. She was always forgetting to do that. 
In mock exasperation, she put her briefcase down again and marched back 
to the desk. The door closed slowly on its own. She picked up the receiver 
and dialed 7 and 2, the code that would automatically connect her answer- 
ing service. It was always a long, frustrating wait for the dial tone and the 
seven-digit number that would indicate the service had clicked in. 

Then she heard a loud bang in the hall. It sounded like a rifleshot, only 
louder. The sound came from the hall but it ricocheted all around her. 
She thought something had happened in the room itself, but she didn't 
know what. She didn't see the nails that exploded through the door and 
lodged in her walls. She didn't see the nail that shattered the picture frame 
on her wall. She didn't see the nail that shot past her leg, grazing the skin 
and drawing blood, so quickly, so razorlike, that she didn't feel the wound 
until later. All she registered was the tremendous force of the explosion. 

She ducked behind the desk and tried to tame her wild thoughts. Did 
the phone line explode? Were there men with rifles in the hall? Then she 
heard a sound in the hallway, a whimpering, like the crying of a child. Oh, 
my God, she thought, a little girl has been shot! 

And the gunmen were still out there. 

Then the phone began to beep loudly and she thought they would hear 
it. They would know she was in there and come after her! 

Then she smelled sparks and fire. It was a fire! She grabbed her 
briefcase and coat and ran out the door. Down the hall, toward Chris- 
tensen's office, there was nothing but dust and debris. She could see 
his door, but it wasn't in the right place. It had been blown off its 
hinges. Then she saw him. All she could see was blood: his chest, his 
legs, nothing but blood. 

She heard the crying again. It was coming from him, only now it 
sounded more like the moaning of a man. She moaned herself, involun- 
tarily. The sight of him transfixed her. 

At the far end of the corridor, people had begun to come out of their 
offices. She yelled at them, “Get an ambulance! Someone is dying!" 

Christensen's partner, Randy Rigby, wasn't sure he would make it on time 
to their 8 o'clock meeting that morning. Like everyone else, he had been 
a little slow getting started after the holiday, and then he had to make 
a detour to his old office at CFS to pick up some things. He would have 
made it easily, with five minutes to spare, if he had found a legal parking 
space in front of the Judge Building. But he didn't, and he had too many 



LYING FOR THE LORD 231 

parking violations to chance an illegal spot. So he would be a few minutes 
late. Steve would understand. 

Rigby had spoken to him just the night before. He knew Steve was on 
the verge of closing a major documents deal. "How is it going?” he had 
asked. 

"I’ve been going solid until just now,” Steve had said, "working on the 
McLellin project. It looks like it’s finally gonna happen Wednesday.” 

And they talked about their new business venture. "Why don’t we get 
together at eight tomorrow morning and go over things,” he had sug- 
gested, "just kind of brief each other on where we’re at, preparing for the 
future. Tomorrow looks like a pretty laid-back day.” 

When Rigby heard the sirens and saw the lights of the police cars, he 
thought it was probably a fire, but a policeman in the street told him no. 
Just in case, he took the stairs instead of the elevator to the sixth floor. 
There, amid the rubble of wall board and ceiling tile, the first thing he 
noticed was a can of Tab. Had the refrigerator exploded? Steve usually 
stopped at the convenience store in Centerville to pick up a sack of 
doughnuts and some pop so they could "chow down” on junk food during 
their morning meetings. His eating habits were atrocious. Rigby had never 
realized that a refrigerator could blow up. 

Then he heard Janet McDermott shouting. "Steve has been hurt! 
Don’t go down the hallway!” A policeman appeared out of nowhere and 
told him to move out of the way. 

"I’m Steve’s partner,” Rigby said, suddenly feeling dizzy. "I had an 8 
o’clock meeting with Steve. That’s our office.” 

"Good God,” said the cop. "What kind of business were you guys in?” 

Rigby tried to get past the police to give Christensen a priesthood 
blessing, the Mormon last rites, but the firemen arrived and ordered 
everybody out of the building. They feared there might be more bombs. 

In the lobby, Rigby caught up to Janet McDermott. "Is it Steve?” He 
had to know. 

"I’m not sure.” 

"Is he all right?” 

"I’m not sure. I heard him moan.” 

"How can this happen?” he said, pacing distractedly in a three-foot 
square. "This happens in New York, L.A., not Salt Lake City . ” 

"Has his family been notified?” he asked a policeman. 

"It will all be taken care of.” 

That wasn’t good enough. He went to the nearby office of a friend and 
called Terri Christensen. There was no answer. Then he called Steve’s 



232 THE MORMON MURDERS 



father. “Mac, a bomb’s gone off in our office, and I’m not sure if it’s 
Steve — he’s either critically injured or he could be dead.” 

Mac controlled himself. “Please let me know if you hear anything,” he 
finally said and hung up. 

Then Rigby called his wife to tell her he was all right. 

Then he called Hugh Pinnock. Steve had been keeping Rigby informed 
about the McLellin Collection, and had even invited him to become a 
partner in the document searches the Church had commissioned him to 
undertake. “Hugh. You don’t know me. I’m Randy Rigby, Steve Chris- 
tensen’s business partner. But a bomb has just gone off in our office, and 
Steve Christensen has either been critically injured or is dead.” 

There was a silence at the other end of the phone. Then, in an even 
voice, “I appreciate knowing that. But I’m sure you have to know that 
this has something to do with the CFS problem.” 

What a strange reaction, Rigby thought. 



As soon as he hung up the phone with Randy Rigby, Mac 
Christensen burst into tears. In the middle of the store that 
he ran like a Prussian military school, the huge man sobbed inconsolably. 
When he told his son Scott the news, he refused to believe it. “I want 
to see the body for myself,” he said. 

Scott went first to the police station, then to the Judge Building, but 
they wouldn’t let him up to the sixth floor. They said they already had 
positive identification. He still refused to believe it until he saw the body. 

Mr. Mac called a friend to take him to Terri’s house. 

Terri Christensen was still in the shower when the phone started 
ringing. In the seventh month of her pregnancy, she found everything 
took longer than it used to. The first call she picked up was from a friend 
who had heard something about a bombing in the Judge Building. One 
fatality. Terri brushed it off. “Steve had a meeting somewhere this morn- 
ing at eight,” she explained. “He wasn’t in his office. There’s no need to 
come over. It can’t be him.” Besides, she had to go to the dentist. 

Just to put her mind at rest, though, she called Steve’s office. She heard 
his voice, but it was only the answering machine: “Hello. You’ve reached 
the offices of Steve Christensen. . . .” That was strange, she thought, for 




LYING FOR THE LORD 233 



the machine to be on this late. So she called Randy Rigby's wife — she 
knew Randy was Steve's 8 o'clock appointment. Sandra Rigby answered 
the phone but was sobbing too hard to say anything clearly. All Terri could 
understand was: “It’s not Steve. It's not Steve." 

A sense of panic began to creep over her, but she fought it. She called 
Joan Christensen, Steve’s mother. “I talked to Mac, and he says he's on 
his way home," was all she could say. 

“I’m on my way there too," Terri said. “I don't want to be alone." 

As she walked out the door, another friend was walking up the sidewalk, 
sobbing hard. She had come with a message, but was crying too hard to 
give it. By now, she didn't need to. 

At Steve’s parents’ house in Bountiful, Terri sat perfectly still and quiet. 
She knew that if she moved or spoke a word, everything would come apart. 
Finally, she felt strong enough to call her parents in Montana, but they 
had already heard the news and were packing for the long drive to Salt 
Lake City. The planes were too slow for their grief. 

Someone offered to get Terri’s sons out of school immediately so they 
could be told by a family member. Someone else called her obstetrician 
to get some Valium for her. They were beginning to worry: she still hadn’t 
cried. She just lay there on the couch, staring at the ceiling. “What are 
you feeling?” someone ventured. 

“I don't want to feel," she answered. “I’m too afraid to feel." Then, 
to herself, “I can’t have this baby alone. Why do I have to be pregnant?" 

Finally, when no one expected it, she let out a terrible sound, a long, 
heart-stopping shriek. 

Joan Christensen held out until later that evening when Don Tanner, 
a friend of Steve’s, came to pick up his wife. He parked his car in front 
and walked up to the door. At that moment, Joan looked out the window 
and saw Tanner’s dark hair and plaid shirt — the kind that Steve favored — 
and thought it was Steve, walking up to greet her. Then she realized her 
mistake. After hours of grim poise and brave optimism, Joan burst into 
tears and fell into the arms of her son Scott. 



234 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Tom Wilding had a different reaction to the news. 

“Does this totally destroy our chances of this sale going 
through?” he asked. 

If Hofmann thought the bombings might give him a temporary respite 
from his many creditors, he was badly mistaken. 

Knowing that Hofmann and Christensen were friends, Wilding re- 
minded himself to be sensitive to Mark's feelings. But as far as he was 
concerned, the bombing didn't change a thing. After all, he was responsi- 
ble to his investors. He wanted the $185,000 that Christensen was sup- 
posed to pay Hofmann, and he wanted it now. He wasn't going to let 
anything, even a bombing, interfere with the transaction. 

Hofmann was surprisingly cooperative. “I still think there’s a good 
chance we can put it together. I'll just have to find a new agent to replace 
Steve in the deal.” He said he had one in mind but didn't want to give 
them the name. John Ashton assumed it was Hugh Pinnock. 

“Do you want to use my phone?” Wilding offered, trying not so subtly 
to convey a sense of undiminished urgency. 

“No,” said Hofmann. “I'll just use the phone in my car.” He agreed 
to return at four, when Ashton would have ready the documents transfer- 
ring Hofmann's house to HWJ, Wilding's investor group. Bombing or no 
bombing, they still wanted their money. 

Bombing or no bombing, the Church still wanted the McLellin Collec- 
tion. 

But from the moment Mark Hofmann called that morning with the 
news of Steve Christensen's death, Hugh Pinnock knew it wasn't going 
to be easy. He wondered if the bombing might have been related to the 
Salamander Letter and, by extension, the McLellin Collection, but Hof- 
mann didn't think so. His theory was that it was CFS-related, a theory 
that Pinnock passed on to a puzzled Randy Rigby when he called a few 
minutes later. It was a remarkable piece of guesswork on Hofmann's 
part — the bomb at Gary Sheets's house hadn't gone off yet. 

On Hofmann's heels, David Sorensen called. David West had been 
waiting for Hofmann to appear with the Collection at ten when he heard 
the news and called Sorensen in Nova Scotia. The national media hadn't 




LYING FOR THE LORD 235 



yet picked up the story. ‘There’s been an explosion, and Steve Chris- 
tensen was blown up. The news people are starting to talk about the 
Salamander Letter. Maybe this is related to that in some way.” West and 
Sorensen had agreed that it probably wasn’t, but Sorensen wanted some 
reassurance from the Church. Pinnock told him that Hofmann had called 
and said he was still willing to go through with the deal. The meeting was 
reset for ten the next morning. Relieved, Sorensen called West to give 
him the new time and reassure him. “Hofmann will bring in all the stuff 
to you tomorrow.” 

Even though West had heard about the Sheets bombing in the interim, 
and accepted it as evidence that the bombings were CFS-related, he was 
still uneasy. “Well, Dave, I really don’t know,” he told Sorensen. “I’m 
a little bit nervous, but okay, we’ll go ahead. Except that now we’ve got 
to hire somebody — we’ve got to get some expert in here to really look this 
stuff over. I don’t know who to hire.” Sorensen said he would check it 
out, but by the time he got back to Pinnock that morning, Pinnock had 
left the office to speak at a funeral. 

While there, Pinnock learned that the second bombing victim was 
Kathy Sheets, whom he had known since college. Whatever the shock, 
the news also had to be a relief: it proved positively that the bombings 
weren’t documents related. He went from the funeral to the home of 
David Burton, Gary Sheets’s stake president, to console his old frat 
brother. Sheets, who had heard the theory that the bombings were docu- 
ments related, asked him, “What do you know about Mark Hofmann?” 
Without flinching, Pinnock replied, “Nothing.” A few minutes later, 
however, Jimmy Sheets overheard him on Burton’s phone trying franti- 
cally to get ahold of Hofmann. 

Hofmann, in fact, had gone to the First Presidency building to find 
Pinnock. When Dallin Oaks found out Hofmann was in the building, he 
had him brought to his office. Oaks, one of the Twelve Apostles, ex- 
president of B.Y.U., and a former justice of the Utah Supreme Court, was 
a shrewd lawyer and sophisticated tactician. 

He began by telling Hofmann, whom he was meeting for the first time, 
that Pinnock had kept him informed of the McLellin Collection and of 
his efforts to obtain it. In other words, he could speak freely. What he 
didn y t say was that he, Hinckley, and Pinnock had already concluded that 
Hofmann was a crook, trying in some as yet unknown way to hoodwink 
the Church. 

Hofmann said he feared the police would question him about the 
Collection and he wanted to know what he should say. The message was 



236 THE MORMON MURDERS 

clear. If the Church wanted him to keep quiet about the Collection, he 
would. 

But Oaks wasn't about to be drawn into Hofmann's scheme, whatever 
it was. “Why would the police want to question you," he asked, if the 
bombings are, in fact, related to CFS? “Their business activities don't 
have anything to do with you, do they?" 

Hofmann said they didn't. 

Oaks pressed. Did Hofmann have any reason to suspect that the bomb- 
ings had something to do with his documents business with Christensen? 

Hofmann said no. 

“Do you know anyone in your documents business who would enforce 
his contracts with a bomb?" 

“No." 

“Well, then," said Oaks triumphantly, “what do you have to worry 
about? The police probably won't question you, and if they do, just tell 
them the truth." 

Oaks asked if he was planning to go ahead with the closing on the 
McLellin Collection the next day. 

Hofmann said yes. 

It was a perfect cross-examination. No open questions, no unnecessary 
information from the witness, no unexpected bombshells. And, on Oaks's 
part, complete deniability. If Hofmann had admitted wrongdoing, Oaks 
would have been forced either to go to the police himself or become an 
accomplice. This way, he was covered. He wrote up his notes of the 
conversation and put them away. He must have sensed that they might 
be needed soon, even if he didn't yet know for what. 

Hofmann ran into Pinnock in the Church Office Building parking lot. 
He told him about the meeting with Oaks and said he was flying to New 
York the next day to get money to pay off the loan at First Interstate Bank. 
“It's fortunate that the bombings were related to Steve's business," said 
Pinnock. By now it had become a kind of incantation. Hofmann didn't 
respond. He just sat in his car and stared straight ahead. 

Pinnock met immediately with Oaks, then called David Sorensen, who 
had phoned earlier to find out who could take Christensen's place at the 
meeting the next morning. Pinnock gave him a list of names but his 
preference was Don Schmidt, the former Church archivist who was now 
retired and living in Provo. Sorensen relayed the name to West, and West 
called Schmidt. “Can I hire you to look at some documents? — we've got 
some historical documents." Schmidt agreed to be there at ten the next 
morning. 



LYING FOR THE LORD 237 



Finally, Pinnock and Oaks met with Gordon Hinckley. By now. Pin- 
nock was distraught. Despite his best efforts, the deal for the Collection 
seemed to be unraveling. Christensen was dead, Sorensen was nervous, 
and no one knew what Mark Hofmann was up to. No one knew if he 
would even show up at ten the next morning. 

In the meantime, Pinnock and the others told themselves again that 
the bombings were related to CFS, not the documents. If that's what they 
had to believe to keep this deal together, if that's what they had to believe 
to keep the police and the press away, if that's what they had to believe 
to ensure that the McLellin Collection would find its way into safe hands, 
then that's what they would believe. They had certainly believed far more 
improbable explanations to reap far more intangible rewards. 

An hour after leaving the First Presidency building, Hofmann returned 
to the office of Wilding's lawyer, John Ashton, at 79 South Main Street. 
Ashton presented him with the documents to be signed by his parents, 
whose names were on the title to the house. But Hofmann wanted to do 
it a different way. He wanted Ashton to prepare a deed conveying the 
house from his parents to Mark and Dorie, then he and Dorie would sign 
the trust deed over to Wilding's investor group. He was willing to come 
back later when the revised papers were ready. 

But Ashton didn't want even one more delay. He told Mark to wait 
while he redrafted the documents. 

During the wait, Hofmann tried several times to reach Hugh Pinnock. 
Each time he got a secretary: “Hello. This is Mark Hofmann, and I need 
to talk with Elder Pinnock. It's very important. No, I don't want to leave 
a message. I'll call back later." 

Pinnock was with Oaks in Gordon Hinckley's office trying to figure out 
what to do about Mark Hofmann. 

“Why are you calling Pinnock?" Ashton asked after the second or third 

tr y- 

“He's a good friend of mine," said Hofmann. 

When the documents were ready, Ashton told Mark to get notarized 
signatures from his parents and from Dorie and to bring the documents 
back the next morning. 

“No problem," said Hofmann. 

When he got back into his car, he tore the documents up and threw 
them on the floor. 



238 THE MORMON MURDERS 



October 1 5 also happened to be the day of the closing on 
the house in Cottonwood. Starting at one, Connie Smith 
and her clients waited at the Western States Title Co. office for the 
Hofmanns to arrive — and waited and waited. “I can't find Mark,” Carl 
Lundquist said when Smith called his office. 

The seller, meanwhile, was having a fit. “Connie, we've had an uneasy 
feeling about this all along," she huffed. “Oh, I am not impressed! I am 
not impressed with this." 

Finally, Lundquist called with the explanation. “The reason that Mark 
isn't there is that he was supposed to have picked up $200,000 from Steve 
Christensen this morning. If he had been five minutes earlier, it would 
have worked, but Christensen was blown up and killed. Mark is some- 
where in total shock, because Christensen has been killed, and because 
he's convinced that the bombing was meant for him." 

“Now what?" Smith asked, cool as usual. 

“Mark is flying to New York, where he will get fifty thousand, which 
he will put down in good faith to keep this contract together. He'll be back 
on Thursday. He wants the house and he will have the money, but there 
will be a delay now, because the money is going to have to come from 
overseas and there will be a thirteen-day delay while the check is cleared. 
Find out if the seller is willing to wait." 

The seller said she “just wanted to forget the whole thing" but asked 
Smith's advice. 

“We don’t have another buyer," Smith told her, “so let's wait. Let's 
go for it." 

Carl Lundquist called again. “We'll have fifty thousand, if your client 
will close on that." 

“Fifty thousand is nothing to sneeze at," Smith told her client. “Take 
it. If he doesn't come through, that's good wages. If it takes you a year 
to reclaim the house, that's good wages for a year." 

So they reset the closing for the next day, the 16th. 

Smith didn't know whether to believe Hofmann's story. She was too 
old, she told herself, not to believe crazy things. 




LYING FOR THE LORD 239 



* * # 

That evening, local television stations devoted their news programs to 
weather, B.Y.U. sports, and the bombings. KSL, the Church-owned CBS 
affiliate, gave equal time to the CFS explanation and the Salamander 
Letter. 

Jeff Simmonds, the Utah State archivist, and his wife, Jeannie, were 
watching the KSL newscast in their breakfast room. When it was over, 
Simmonds turned off the set. “Well, by God, if it is the Salamander 
Letter, Mark will blow up tomorrow.’’ 

Jeannie looked at him. “If he didn’t do it.” 

Simmonds had always known that his wife loathed Hofmann. “Ah, 
you’re crazy,” he said. 

Scott Christensen still had to see his brother’s body. It wasn’t that he held 
out hope that there had been some awful mistake. He just had to see for 
himself. So he headed for the funeral home on Haynes Street in Bountiful. 

He vaguely knew two of the Rustin brothers who ran the mortuary. 
“Where’s my brother Steve at?” Scott asked the one who answered the 
door. They led him to the room where Steve’s body was laid out on a table 
covered by a translucent plastic sheet. There were no cosmetics. They 
hadn’t yet covered the wounds, although they had sewn him back to- 
gether. Scott took what meager solace he could in that. “At least he 
survived the blast in one piece,” he told himself. 

Gretchen Sheets, Kathy’s daughter, had been in school when the police- 
man came to get her. “Gretchen,” he said, “there’s somebody waiting 
outside.” But when they got outside, his story changed. “You need to 
come with me. There’s been an accident at your house.” 

She begged him to tell her what had happened, but he wouldn’t. So 
she got her books and drove with him to the police station. “Maybe 
they’re bringing me in for a traffic ticket,” she told herself, although she 
knew they weren’t. She stared out the window of the police car and let 
the sense of shock slowly envelop her. She remembered the recurrent 
nightmare she used to have in high school. In it, her parents had died and 
a policeman came and got her out of school. When he told her the news, 
she screamed and pounded on the windows. She had written about the 
dream in her journal and talked about it with her friends, but after she 
started college, it went away. She figured it must have been just a high 
school dream. 



240 THE MORMON MURDERS 



At the police station, she saw her boyfriend’s parents. She saw her 
sister’s car and her father’s car. Gary met her in the parking lot and told 
her the news. But she didn’t scream or pound on the windows. She simply 
fell to the ground and wept. “I felt like someone had taken the bones from 
my body,” she said later. 

Jimmy Sheets, the quiet one, the athletic youngster with the straight-A 
report card, the apple of his mother’s eye, was the one who screamed and 
pounded on the windows. 

Later that evening, Kathy’s friend, Cherie Bridge, walked over to the 
empty Sheets house to find a better photograph of Kathy. The one the 
police had, the one they had released to the press, showed her with glasses 
and wasn’t very flattering. Kathy would have hated it. Cherie wanted the 
press to have a picture that did her justice. 

Still later, Cherie’s husband, Mike, a strong, solid, handsome man, 
father of seven, brought a pail of water and a brush over to the Sheets 
house. That afternoon, Gretchen had come back to pick up some things 
and had to walk past the place where it had happened, past the blackened 
wood and the patches of blood. Everyone agreed that someone needed to 
clean it up but no one felt strong enough. So they picked Mike. He was 
the strongest one. So he took his pail and brush and knelt down on the 
blackened catwalk and cleaned the stains of blood and sobbed the whole 
time. 

After a day of trying, Brent Metcalfe reached Mark Hofmann that night. 
“Wow,” Mark said, “can you believe what’s happening?” 

“No. God. It’s bad enough to kill Steve, somebody of his caliber,” said 
Metcalfe, “but I can’t understand how anybody could do that to his kids.” 
There was a long pause at the other end of the line. 

“You’ve got to tell the police that you got this death threat,” Metcalfe 
continued. This was the message he had been trying to get through to 
Mark all day. “If you don’t tell the police, I will.” 

Hofmann seemed strangely puzzled. “Don’t you feel like you can rest 
more comfortably tonight,” he asked, “since it seems like this is all about 
Steve’s business, Gary Sheets and the CFS thing?” 

Metcalfe was taken aback. “Mark, don’t you realize that Gary was the 
primary funder behind the research project on the Salamander Letter?” 
Again, complete silence on the other end. “No, I didn’t,” he finally 
said, suddenly agitated. “Wow! I guess we can’t rest easier.” 



LYING FOR THE LORD 241 



The next morning, Wednesday, October 16, Tom Wilding 
waited for Mark Hofmann to call. When he didn’t, Wild- 
Dorie at her parents’ house. She sounded distant and nervous. 
She didn’t know where Mark was. He had driven off early that morning 
and, as usual, told her nothing. The best Wilding could do was leave a 
message for Mark to call him. For good measure, he called Bill and Lu 
Hofmann’s house and left another message. He didn’t care who knew: 
he wanted his money. 

John Ashton, too, spent the morning waiting, waiting for Hofmann to 
deliver the signed papers on his house. He never did. 

Hugh Pinnock couldn't find Hofmann either. When he arrived that 
morning, however, there was a message from Dorie. She had called at 8:15 
to say that Mark “was going to see some other people” and would close 
the deal on the McLellin Collection at two that afternoon instead of ten 
that morning as originally planned. Another delay. It was a bad way to 
start the day. 

Pinnock called David West about 9:30 to let him know that Hofmann 
wouldn’t be there until two. That meant West would have to rearrange 
his afternoon appointments, even though Don Schmidt was already on his 
way from Provo. A thoughtful attorney, and a cautious man. West liked 
this deal less and less. With all the bombs going off and one of the parties 
already dead, he would have liked to call the whole thing off. But he called 
Sorensen and told him he would do whatever was necessary to get the job 
done. “Whatever we’re gonna do,” he told himself after hanging up, “let’s 
just get it over with.” 

Don Schmidt arrived as promised at ten, and West asked him if he 
could come back at two. 

“That would be okay. I’ll just kind of stick around,” said Schmidt, then 
thought to ask, “What is it that I’ll be looking at?” 

“Something called the McLellin Collection,” said West. “Someone 
named Mark Hofmann has it.” 

Schmidt recognized that name. “Oh, yeah, I know Mark Hofmann, 
and I know the McLellin Collection. I’ll be happy to wait around.” 



57 

ing called 



242 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Schmidt returned promptly at two, and he and West adjourned to the 
tufted leather chairs of the conference room to wait for Hofmann to arrive 
with what West called “the goodies.” From the picture window, they 
could see beyond the tall white tower of the Commercial Security Finance 
Building to the Temple and the Tabernacle. 

And they waited. Schmidt filled the time by telling West what he knew 
about Hofmann. Then they waited some more. West’s uneasiness re- 
turned. He wondered if perhaps there had been some mix-up on the time. 
After all, he hadn’t spoken directly to Hofmann. He called Sorensen in 
Nova Scotia. “Dave, are you sure that we had an appointment at two?” 

Sorensen was sure. “I thought you guys would probably have this deal 
all closed by now,” he said. 

“No. We haven’t seen him. We haven’t heard from anybody or gotten 
any calls. We’re just sitting here waiting and wondering if maybe we 
might have gotten the wrong word or something on the appointment 
time.” 

“Well, I don’t know any more about it.” 

But he could sure as hell find out. Like West, he had every reason to 
be fed up with the endless complications of a deal that had been under- 
taken solely as a favor for the Church. He called Hugh Pinnock, but 
Pinnock was out of the office, so he voiced his concerns to Dallin Oaks. 
Oaks turned around and called Pinnock. Just as he had the day before at 
Burton’s house, Pinnock launched into a frantic series of phone calls in 
search of the elusive documents dealer. He called every number Mark had 
ever given him. Finally, at 2:45, he reached Done. 

“Where is Mark?” he demanded. “Mark’s supposed to be in West’s 
office, and he isn’t there. They’re waiting for him impatiently.” But Dorie 
still didn’t know where he was. All she knew was that Shannon Flynn was 
there, at her parents’ house, also looking for Mark. 

Everybody, it seemed, was looking for Mark. 

Within minutes of Pinnock’s call, West and Schmidt heard police 
sirens breaking the serenity of Temple Square. West guessed immediately 
it was another bombing. He turned on a radio and heard a newsman saying 
that there had been an explosion on North Temple. Somebody had been 
blown up in a car. 

West had a feeling he knew who it was — and that somehow the deal 
was off. 



LYING FOR THE LORD 243 



Driving back to his house in Bountiful, Brent Metcalfe 
remembered the strange conversation he had had with Hof- 
mann the night before. 

“Have you seen the drawing yet?” he had asked, referring to the police 
composite drawing of the bomber. Apparently several people had seen a 
man walking into the Judge Building early that morning with a package 
in his arms. They had given their descriptions to the police. 

“Have you seen the drawing yet?” 

Mark seemed very interested. “No, I haven’t. Have you?” 

“No. I was just wondering if it’s come out yet.” 

“I don’t think it’s been released yet.” 

There was nothing strange about it, Metcalfe convinced himself. Mark 
seemed calm — too calm, in fact. Calmer than Metcalfe, certainly, who 
had packed his family up and taken them to his parents’ house for the 
night. 

Later that day, after stopping by Hofmann’s house and finding it 
empty, Metcalfe called Tribune reporter Dawn Tracy about an AP article 
on the previous day’s bombings that had quoted him. While they were 
on the phone, Tracy told him to hold: a story was coming over the wire. 
There had been a third bombing over by Deseret Gym. A car had blown 
up. 

Metcalfe panicked. 

“What kind of car was it?” 

“It was a Toyota MR2.” 

“What color?” 

Tracy left the line to check. A few seconds later: “It’s blue.” 

“I’ve got to get right over there,” Metcalfe cried and hung up the 
phone. He’d never driven faster than he did on the way to the Deseret 
Gym. He didn’t think about where he was parking. He just stopped and 
jumped out. 

When he saw the car, his knees turned to jelly. He began losing the 
feeling in his arms. It sat on the opposite side of the street from the 
gymnasium, near a low concrete wall that skirted the base of a tall luxury 
apartment complex — the Design Summit. The road climbed steeply on 




244 THE MORMON MURDERS 



that section of 200 North, just to the west of Main Street, so the scene 
was laid out like a tableau on a raked stage, much easier to see from a 
distance. The car itself was a blackened shell, the roof mangled, the 
insides soaking wet from a relentless dousing by an overzealous fireman. 
Policemen, uniformed and ununiformed, stooped beside it, hovered over 
it, poked inside it, and conversed in small knots. The only thing Metcalfe 
could recognize was the still-blue front end, strangely untouched by the 
blast and fire. To the left of the wreck, in the street, he could see what 
looked like bloodstains. If Mark was still alive, he was lucky. Metcalfe 
asked a policeman and was told the ambulance had just left. 

He told the policeman, “I’m Brent Metcalfe. I think I know the owner 
of that car.” 

The police already knew who he was. “We need to take you into 
protective custody,” said a detective. “Your life is in danger.” 

Connie Smith heard the sirens from inside her silver BMW as it sat in 
a parking lot at the Triad Center, a third of a mile from the Deseret Gym. 
A second later, a team of KSL reporters scrambled from the building and 
jumped into trucks, cars, and camera vans. 

When her client heard that there had been an explosion near the 
Deseret Gym, he jumped out of the car and hitched a ride with one of 
the news vans, so Smith headed toward her office in Cottonwood, eager 
to beat the inevitable police barricades and rubbernecking traffic jams. 

When she walked into the office, a chorus of voices greeted her: “No 
closing tomorrow.” 

“What?” 

“Mark Hofmann was just blown up in his car. He’s not dead, but we 
won’t be having a closing.” 

The next day, Carl Lundquist called and said, “Mark still wants the 
house. Just sit tight.” No matter what the police were saying, his friend 
Hofmann wasn’t guilty of the bombings. 

The seller wasn’t so sure. 

When Smith asked her what they should do about the earnest money, 
she said firmly, “If he’s guilty, I am not going to give it back.” 

At about three, Jeff Simmonds was in his office when both of the Utah 
State archive’s phones rang at once. One call was from his mother, the 
other from a friend, both saying that KSL had just broken into its program 
to announce that Mark Hofmann had been blown up in a third bombing. 
Stunned, his staff gathered around a radio for more news. “My God,” said 
Simmonds. “If they’re blowing people up who said something about the 



LYING FOR THE LORD 245 

Salamander Letter, then I’m in trouble because I have said as much as 
anybody in the state.” 

He went into his private office and called Sandra Tanner. “Have you 
heard the news?” 

She certainly had. “I called the police and they said that Hofmann 
himself was the bomber and he was in the hospital.” 

“Do you buy that?” Simmonds certainly didn’t. 

“Well,” said Sandra. “Just don’t pick up any brown packages.” 

When David West heard the news that Mark Hofmann was the victim 
in the third bombing, he immediately called David Sorensen. “Dave,” he 
said, the strain of the last few days obvious in his voice. “I have absolutely 
no idea what’s going on. I really don’t. But it’s time you and I get out of 
it, whatever it is. We don’t want to have any more to do with it.” 
Sorensen agreed. “Absolutely.” 

When he went home that night, West got in his car and said to himself, 
“This is pretty dam scary stuff.” Then he gritted his teeth and turned the 
key. 



After the third bombing, everyone panicked. 

But no one panicked the way Hugh Pinnock panicked. 
No one had more to lose. In two days, his seemingly brilliant stroke to 
ingratiate himself with the Brethren by bringing the McLellin Collection 
discreetly under the Church’s aegis had backfired — backfired spectacu- 
larly, backfired lethally, and, worst of all, backfired publicly. Two people 
were dead, one seriously injured, and the Collection was still out there. 
There had always been a danger that it would fall into enemy hands (i.e., 
public hands), now there was a virtual certainty. With police and press 
snooping around in the affairs of Christensen and Hofmann, it was only 
a matter of days, perhaps hours, before the details of the transaction, the 
Church’s involvement, and Hugh Pinnock’s involvement showed up on 
the evening news. And that, more than the deaths, would be the end of 
Hugh Pinnock in the LDS Church. 

“Poor Hugh,” Gary Sheets later lamented. “If it hadn’t been for all 
this, he would have become an Apostle.” 




246 THE MORMON MURDERS 



And Pinnock wasn't the only one whose position in the Celestial 
Kingdom was on the line. Everybody, from Hinckley on down, who 
had been involved with Hofmann remembered what happened to 
Henry D. Moyle. 

Soon after Moyle was brought into the First Presidency as a coun- 
selor by David McKay in McKay's dotage, he began to think he ran 
the show. As McKay floated in and out of senility, and in and out of 
hospitals, “Money Man'' Moyle took more and more of the Prophet's 
authority to himself. He decided, for instance, to build the giant 
twenty-eight-story Church Office Building. The Twelve opposed the 
idea, but Moyle went ahead with it anyway, and with other controver- 
sial projects as well. 

Needless to say, the Twelve found such behavior unsuitable. Moyle 
hadn't come up through the ranks; he hadn’t paid his dues in some 
remote, thankless outpost like the Bolivian mission. And here he was, 
telling the Council of the Twelve what to do. Eventually, when they 
couldn't take it any longer, they torpedoed him. Not publicly, of course. 
They didn't even announce his demotion in the Church News . Citing his 
health problems, they simply yanked McKay's authority, and with it, 
Moyle's. When they signed the checks, nothing else mattered. Stunned, 
Moyle slipped off to Florida for an “extended vacation" and obligingly 
died. 

It was a sobering lesson, even for someone as powerful as Gordon 
Hinckley, who was on the Council when Moyle met his end. “You have 
no idea what it means to have that kind of position taken away from you," 
says a Church insider. “In the Mormon Church, a man's righteousness 
is inextricably tied to his rank in the Church. The higher up you are, the 
more righteous you are, the closer you are to God. If, all of a sudden, your 
position is taken away, it's worse than a demotion in any corporation, it's 
worse than a demotion in the Soviet Union — because they don't believe 
in God. They just have to worry about getting shot. In the Mormon 
Church, it means your eternal life is affected." 

It must have been fear for his eternal life that prompted Pinnock to 
tell Gary Sheets that he knew nothing about Mark Hofmann. And it must 
have been the same fear that brought him to Steve Christensen's house 
the day after the bombings. He told Terri that he had come to “collect" 
Steve's confidential papers on the McLellin Collection. After all, the 
transaction was a “private matter,” and therefore all materials relating to 
it should be kept under “Church control." 

And it must have been his eternal life that was on his mind when Police 



LYING FOR THE LORD 247 



Detective Don Bell interviewed him at 1:12 in the afternoon on October 
17, the day after the bomb exploded in Hofmann’s car. 

“Elder Pinnock, this is the deal,” Bell began, notebook in hand. “This 
is a homicide investigation. Do you know Mr. Hofmann?” 

paused and reflected a moment. “No, I don’t believe I 



Don Bell, a sixteen-year veteran of the Salt Lake City Police 
Department, was already in a bad mood. When it was 
decided that Pinnock had to be interviewed, one of the Mormon officers 
in the department had suggested that it be done with kid gloves. “These 
people are different,” he said. “We have to treat them differently.” Bell 
shot back, “This is a homicide investigation. We have people to talk to, 
we talk to them. We don’t care if they’re presidents of corporations, we 
don’t care if they’re ditch diggers.” By itself, that exchange was enough 
to set him on edge. Then he called Pinnock’s secretary. 

“I’m sorry. Elder Pinnock’s in the Temple.” 

“How long will he be there?” 

“I don’t know. Who is calling?” 

“This is who is calling. 1 need to talk to him.” The suggestion that 
Pinnock be given deferential treatment had riled him. 

“Is there anything we can do for you?” 

“No, there isn’t. I need to talk to him.” 

Five minutes later, Bell’s phone rang. But it wasn’t Pinnock, it was 
Martell Bird, the head of Church Security. “Why don’t you give me the 
message for Elder Pinnock,” he suggested. 

Bell was really feeling the fire now. “Because I don’t want to give you 
the message. It has nothing to do with you. I want to talk to him. I can 
fit it around his schedule, if necessary. I’m sure he’s busy. So am I. But 
I need to talk to him. If we have to do it at night, that’s all right.” He 
paused. Clearly, this guy needed a shove. “Maybe the easiest thing to do 
is to get an investigative subpoena and have it served.” 

He could hear Bird jump on the other end of the line. “Hold on! We 
don’t need to do that.” 

Twenty minutes later, Pinnock called. “I have the whole afternoon 



Pinnock 



do.' 



60 



248 THE MORMON MURDERS 



free,” he said in his most unctuous voice. “I can see you any time you 
want.” 

“How about right now?” 

“Beautiful.” 

(As Bell drove over to the First Presidency building, a delegation from 
Church Security, headed by Martell Bird, was paying a visit to Bell’s 
superior, Police Chief Bud Willoughby, to let him know what they 
thought of Detective Don Bell’s manners.) 

Bell already knew from an interview at the First Interstate Bank that 
Pinnock had arranged a loan for Mark Hofmann. Now Pinnock claimed 
he didn’t know Hofmann. Bell choked back his astonishment and tried 
again. “Do you know anything about the McLellin Collection and this 
man who was trying to sell it?” 

“Well, wait a minute,” said Pinnock, apparently catching the look on 
Bell’s face. “I think I do.” 

Somebody was lying, thought Bell, either the people at First Interstate 
Bank or Hugh Pinnock. Bell laid bets it was Pinnock. Down at the 
Metropolitan Hall of Justice, that bet would have been worth a lot. In 
sixteen years as a policeman, Bell had earned a reputation as one of the 
best, if not the best interviewer, in the department. It was Bell who had 
cracked Arthur Gary Bishop, extracting, within twenty-four hours, confes- 
sions to a wave of murders of young boys that had paralyzed the city. As 
an interviewer, he was a legend. He certainly knew when he was being 
fed a line. 

“The McLellin Collection?” Pinnock fumbled with the pronunciation 
and mused another moment. “I think I remember something about that. 
There was a guy who came here. Now, I know nothing about him myself, 
but I remember that some guy came in and said something about a 
collection. And I remember having to get up and walk down the hall and 
go into Elder Oaks’s office. And I asked Elder Oaks, ‘Are we interested 
in a “McLellin Collection” or some kind of collection?’ And he said, ‘No. 
We’re not buying anything. If the guy wants to donate something, that’s 
fine.’ And I came back and told the guy, ‘If you want to donate something, 
that’s fine.’ ” 

Bell could hardly contain himself. Lies, especially when they came in 
great clumps like this, could be very entertaining. “You know,” he said, 
“we have some information that Mr. Hofmann met with President 
Hinckley.” 

Pinnock leaned back in his chair, put his feet up on the desk, and 



LYING FOR THE LORD 249 

brought his hands together in prayer position. “You have to understand 
something,” he began, summoning up all of the sanctimonious sonorities 
of his most patronizing tone. “People come into this building all the time. 
Then they leave this building, and they go and they talk to their friends. 
And they say, ‘We’ve been down there visiting the First Presidency of the 
Church.’ Or, ‘We’ve been visiting President Hinckley.’ 

“This is sort of what my job is. You see, the First Presidency of the 
Church doesn’t have the time to just listen to people who come in off the 
street. So they steer the people in to me and 1 listen to their concerns, 
and I’m nice to them. Then, when they leave the building, they often go 
say they’ve been meeting with President Hinckley or something. Nine 
times out of ten, they’ve just seen somebody low down on the totempole 
like me.” 

Bell had been raised a Mormon, so he knew that was true. Not just 
anybody could walk into the offices of the First Presidency. Perhaps 
Hofmann had been bragging about the visits with Hinckley. But First 
Interstate wasn’t bragging about the $185,000 loan. Bell had held the loan 
application in his own hands. There was no doubt in Bell’s mind: Hof- 
mann was lying, but so was Hugh Pinnock. 

“I’m afraid that’s about it,” Pinnock concluded. “I wish I could give 
you more help. But I’m sure President Hinckley has never met this man. 
The whole situation is very sad. Isn’t it awful? In fact, 1 did know Steve 
Christensen slightly. I was friends with Gary Sheets in college, and, of 
course, I know Mr. Mac.” 

Bell pursued the subject of Steve Christensen. Pinnock said that Steve 
had been involved in arranging a donation of “some documents” to the 
Church just before his death. The donor was a private collector in Canada, 
and Steve was supposed to authenticate the documents. 

“What kind of documents?” Bell pressed. 

“Oh, some letters from Joseph Smith, something like that. A1 Rust of 
Rust’s Coin Store was somehow involved. I believe he had put up some 
money on some of the documents. The documents were supposed to have 
been donated the day Steve was killed.” 

Bell knew backtracking when he heard it. Pinnock had apparently 
figured out that Bell was likely to uncover something about the transac- 
tion. Then he backtracked on Mark Hofmann. 

“You know, that Mark Hofmann you mentioned? I think I now re- 
member that on the 15th, his wife called my secretary and left a message 
saying he wanted to see me that afternoon to talk about some document 
collections. But we never had the appointment. There was no need to. 



250 THE MORMON MURDERS 



After all, the Church wasn't interested in any collections." He was weav- 
ing an increasingly tangled web. 

On his way to his car, Bell didn't doubt for a moment that he had been 
lied to. He only wanted to know why. Back at the department, he told 
a group of fellow officers about his conversation with Pinnock and other 
Church officials. "We've got some real problems," he said. "They're 
obviously stonewalling us. They're lying to us. I don't know what it is, but 
they're hiding something." Suddenly, one of the assistant chiefs, known 
to be a devout Mormon, slammed his hand down on his desk as hard as 
he could and leaped out of his chair. "I'm getting damned sick and tired 
of hearing they. 4 They this, they that.' Just who the hell is theyT And 
he continued to rant until someone took him aside and calmed him down. 
Everyone knew what his problem was — just as everyone knew who "they" 
was. 

The minute Detective Bell left his office, Hugh Pinnock contacted the 
nearest lawyer, Dallin Oaks. It was only then that he found out Oaks had 
already spoken to Shannon Flynn. 



Sometime before eleven that morning, Flynn had come 
looking for Hinckley. "I'm going over right now and talk 
to President Hinckley," he told Lyn Jacobs, who happened to be in the 
Church Office Building. The police wanted to interview him and, with 
Hofmann in the hospital, he needed some guidance. What better place 
to look than Gordon Hinckley? That's what Mark would have done. 
"He's got to get involved in this," said Flynn. "I mean he knows he's 
involved — and, of course, I'm involved." Jacobs thought Flynn sounded 
more excited than worried. 

About the same time, Detective Don Bell began to wonder why Flynn 
hadn't shown up for his 10 o'clock interview. Bell called the number 
Flynn had given him at his father-in-law's. Flynn wasn't there. Bell again 
sensed that he was being avoided. "You tell him that if I don’t hear from 
him by noon, I'll have a warrant for him. These are homicide cases, you 
know." 

Twenty minutes later the phone rang. It was Martell Bird. "I under- 




LYING FOR THE LORD 251 



stand that you are looking for Shannon Flynn.” For a moment, Bell 
thought the Church had tapped his phone. 

“Yes, I am.” 

“Well, he’s over here.” 

“He’s over where?" 

“He’s over here talking to some officials of the Church.” 

That was curious, thought Bell — talking to Church officials before he 
talked to the police. “That’s fine, but he had an appointment with me 
at ten. As 1 told his father-in-law, by noon I’ll have a warrant for him.” 
“I thought you would understand.” 

“Understand what?” 

“He’s here talking to Elder Oaks.” 

After the events of the last few days, Shannon Flynn must have been the 
last person Gordon Hinckley wanted to see — next to Mark Hofmann. But 
it would have been too risky to turn him away. What would he tell the 
police? How much had Hofmann told him? The mere fact that he was 
showing up on Hinckley’s doorstep meant he knew too much to be 
dismissed. For all these reasons, presumably, he was sent for cross-exami- 
nation to the lawyer on staff, Dallin Oaks. 

Justice Oaks was in impeccable form. He called in two men from 
Church Security to act as witnesses — and for protection, if necessary — 
and a stenographer to record every word of the conversation. Shannon 
Flynn, soldier of fortune, was considerably out of his depth. 

“Are you a member of the Church?” Oaks began. It was a standard 
opening that Hinckley also used to invoke the authority of his office. 

Flynn said he was, then spilled his story. He told Oaks that he and 
Hofmann were partners, that the police had found a check in his name 
endorsed over to Mark and now they were on his trail. They wanted to 
interview him, and he needed to know “what posture to take.” He was 
particularly concerned that they might ask him about the fishy $185,000 
loan from First Interstate Bank. “1 know Mark’s position,” he said, “and 
I know there is no way he could get a loan for that amount.” 

“Do you know anything about why he got that loan?” asked Oaks. 
Since Oaks knew exactly why Hofmann got that loan, he must have 
wanted to see how much Flynn knew. Just exactly what was the Church’s 
exposure? 

“He needed those funds to get the McLellin Collection,” Flynn an- 
swered. He knew that much. He had flown with Hofmann to Arizona in 
his unsuccessful bid to solicit funds from Wilford Cardon. 



252 THE MORMON MURDERS 



“Have you seen the McLellin Collection firsthand?’’ This had to be 
Oaks’s first concern. Along with Pinnock, he had taken responsibility for 
bringing the Collection into the Church, and it was still out there. 

Like everybody else, Flynn had seen only bits of the Collection, but he 
knew President Hinckley was very interested in it. Hofmann had spoken 
to Hinckley long distance about it recently, and twice discussed it with 
Francis Gibbons, Hinckley’s secretary. “[Mark] told me President Hinck- 
ley had arranged the loan for him at the First Interstate Bank,” Flynn 
added helpfully. He used Hinckley’s name with stunning noncha- 
lance. What would the police think? 

Oaks broke in. “What was your relationship to him?” 

Flynn explained they were “partners” — “not in business but in specif- 
ics.” 

“Are you partners in the McLellin Collection?” Now Oaks was reveal- 
ing too much. “I am an interested bystander,” he added cautiously. 

“No. He came to me and told me that President Hinckley was nervous 
to have it.” Flynn was losing what little cool he’d come in with. 

“But where was the McLellin Collection?” Oaks demanded. It was 
clearly the only question on his mind. 

Flynn said it was in a safe-deposit box in Texas, but Hofmann couldn’t 
get at it until the money was paid. He had expected to be able to pay it 
off with the sale of another document, but at the last minute, that deal 
had gone sour and Mark was caught short of cash. 

“The Library of Congress deal?” Oaks volunteered. For an interested 
bystander, he was extraordinarily well informed. 

“Yes.” The sale had gone through, Flynn explained, but some of the 
money was held up. That was why Mark had gone to see Hinckley. 
“President Hinckley wanted to get that Collection,” he repeated. “Presi- 
dent Hinckley arranged for a ninety-day loan from the bank.” The plan 
was for Mark to pay for the Collection and then donate it to the Church. 

How did Flynn know all this? 

He had been with Hofmann when he went to Hinckley’s office to ask 
for the loan. “I waited outside in his car. At 1 1 :00 a.m. he went to the 
bank. The loan had been arranged for.” In an attempt to clarify his 
dilemma, Flynn added, “Several banking regulations had been broken in 
making that loan.” 

Oaks jumped on that. “That is your judgment,” he said quickly. 
This was the first mention of illegal activity. All of a sudden, Oaks’s 
decision to have a stenographer present for this interview seemed very 
wise. If, horror of horrors, Flynn’s allegations later proved to be true, 



LYING FOR THE LORD 253 

Oaks would need to protect himself on the record from accusations of 
a cover-up. 

Flynn only made it worse. “Obviously [the banker] was persuaded by 
President Hinckley.” 

“Did [Mark] say ‘President Hinckley?” 

“Yes.” 

Oaks was still mulling over the last response. Undoubtedly, he had 
hoped that Flynn knew nothing about the loan. It was, after all, the 
Church’s only real, legal vulnerability. Everything else could be explained 
away with the usual all-purpose denials (“the Church didn’t buy the 
documents, etc.”). Now it turned out that Flynn did know about the loan, 
but he knew only this cockeyed version of the story that Hofmann had 
fed him, a version that deeply implicated Gordon Hinckley. To correct 
him would be to reveal Oaks’s own knowledge. He needed to find out just 
how cockeyed Hofmann’s version was. 

“Was anyone else’s name mentioned in connection with obtaining this 
loan?” 

“No.” 

Oaks had to be relieved. In his self-importance, Mark had failed to 
mention the real middleman, Hugh Pinnock. Now Oaks knew everything 
he needed to know. He looked at Flynn with a benign smile. “How can 
we be of help to you?” 

“I want to find out what posture I need to take. The whole room is 
falling down.” 

Oaks was too smart to touch that question. The last thing he needed 
was for this overweight, overeager errand boy to go to the police and, 
under hard questioning, say, “Elder Oaks told me to tell you. . . .” Besides, 
there was nothing in his story that could hurt the Church. The allegations 
about Gordon Hinckley’s role in the loan transaction could be easily and 
truthfully denied. 

With the Church’s deniability ensured, Oaks leaned back in his chair 
with a look of gravity and sincerity, and with the stenographer scribbling 
busily in the background, dictated a press release through Shannon Flynn, 
knowing that if Flynn didn’t relay his words to the police. Oaks would. 

“The Church is going to cooperate fully, and it has absolutely nothing 
to hide. Sometimes there are some confidential transactions but this is a 
murder investigation. Confidentiality is set aside. We will cooperate fully. 
You will not do anything favorable by assuming that you need to cover 
up.” 

There was one other point Oaks wanted to make, a point about Gordon 



254 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Hinckley — although he avoided alerting Flynn to the manipulation at 
work by mentioning the name. He said to be careful, when talking to the 
police, to distinguish between “what you know and what someone told 
you. I would urge you not to say, ‘I know this,’ when all you know is what 
he told you. Do you understand?” 

Flynn nodded. 

“You are a member of the Church,” Oaks continued in his best hyp- 
notic, Sunday-school drone. “The Church has nothing to hide in this 
transaction. . . . We have great concern for the lives that have been lost.” 
Flynn nodded again. It was no longer a dialogue — if it ever was. 

“I am not going to talk to the newspapers,” Oaks added, suggestively. 
“The less said to the newspapers the better. People read the papers and 
get their whole ideas from the newspapers.” 

Finally, one last reminder, “Be sure to say what you were told,” and 
then the meeting was over. Flynn later said it seemed like “centuries.” 
It had been less than twenty minutes. 

Soon after Flynn left Oaks’s office to confront the police, Hugh Pinnock 
called, still shaking from his interview with Detective Bell. 



Pinnock hadn’t just lied, he had lied in easily disproved 
ways; he hadn’t just obfuscated, he had obfuscated clum- 
contradicted himself and raised more questions than he 
answered. But worst of all, he had violated the prime directive. In his 
panic, he seemed more interested in protecting himself than in protect- 
ing the Church. 

Not all was lost, however. The FBI agents who had interviewed Oaks 
the day before were coming to see Pinnock later that day. Pinnock didn’t 
have to make the same mistakes a second time. 

And he didn’t. By the time the two special agents arrived, Pinnock was 
ready for them. Not with the whole truth, by any means, but with 
considerably more of it than he had given Detective Bell. He not only 
acknowledged knowing Hofmann, he detailed most of their dealings, 
including the loan from First Interstate Bank. He knew how to pronounce 
“McLellin.” He even gave them David Sorensen’s name. 



62 

sily; he had 



LYING FOR THE LORD 255 



But if the details were scrupulously correct, the overall picture was 
vastly misleading. The Church’s role in the whole affair was really a minor 
one, Pinnock underscored. The transaction was really between Hofmann, 
Christensen, and Sorensen. The Church was merely (as Oaks had told the 
FBI in his interview) “an interested bystander.” Christensen had kept 
Pinnock informed from time to time of progress on the sale, but his only 
substantive role in the deal had been finding Sorensen, whom he por- 
trayed as a collector genuinely interested in the McLellin Collection who 
might, at some point in the future, donate the Collection to the Church. 
Which suited the Church just fine, said Pinnock, because (and he stressed 
this point) the Collection is “not really that significant of an item of 
interest for the Church.” 

The other thing missing from Pinnock’s account — and from Oaks’s 
account the previous day — was the name Gordon Hinckley. 

This, it seems, was to be the strategy: first, the Church was merely a 
bystander in the deal; second, the Church didn’t care about the docu- 
ments; and third, Gordon Hinckley had nothing to do with it. 

Someone with a sharp legal mind must have cautioned Pinnock that 
all of his records would be subject to subpoena, because from that time 
on, his journal entries took a curious turn. The conversation with Oaks 
itself was described not as a frantic exercise in damage control but as a 
friendly chat in which Pinnock expressed “concern for the safety of his 
wife and kids” and complained about not being able to sleep at night. The 
next day, he noted in his journal: “All we know is in the newspaper.” And 
later: “Why don’t we know more about what’s going on?” And later: 
“We’re saying everything we know.” 

The strategy worked for a day or two. Caught up in the drama of the 
bombings and the immediate aftermath, the papers made no mention of 
the Church or the McLellin Collection. Then on Thursday, the 17th, the 
news of Oaks’s meeting with Hofmann on the day of the Christensen and 
Sheets bombings hit the front page of the Salt Lake Tribune. By the next 
day, the Tribune had wind of the Church’s interest in the McLellin 
Collection and was speculating that it might provide the key to the motive 
for the bombings. 

The Church did what it could to keep a lid on the speculation. Over 
at the Church-owned Deseret News, there was a determined effort to keep 
the public’s attention off the McLellin Collection and the Church’s 
pursuit of it. police focus on evidence, not theories, headlined the 
October 18 issue. 



256 THE MORMON MURDERS 

Theories abound on killings. Theories of conspir- 
acy, elaborate forgeries and hundred-thousand dollar 
payoffs may make interesting reading, but police say 
they are more interested in solving two murders. 

It didn't take the media long to put two and two together. If the 
Church was pursuing the McLellin Collection and Hofmann was selling 
it, then Oaks and Hofmann must have met to do business. According to 
the Tribune : “Hofmann was attempting to sell documents, described as 
the M'Lellin Papers, to various clients, including the hierarchy of the 
Mormon Church." Reporters were calling Church officials up and down 
the echelons asking about meetings with Hofmann, Flynn, and A1 Rust. 
Some even wanted to know if it was true that Hofmann had access to 
President Hinckley. 

On Saturday, the Church released an official statement admitting what 
was already common knowledge: Hofmann had contacted Church offi- 
cials to propose that he give or sell them historical documents or artifacts, 
including the William McLellin Collection. But it was too little too late. 
After the revelations about the Salamander Letter and the backtracking 
on the Stowell letter, the Church had used up its credibility with the press. 
The story was out of control. On Sunday, on the front page of the Tribune, 
Dawn Tracy reported the unthinkable. “Complex business dealings of a 
document dealer accused of killing two people reach into the office of 
LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley." 

Then, on Monday morning, Hugh Pinnock woke up to a night- 
mare. 



A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day 
Saints secured a $185,000 loan for bombing suspect 
Mark W. Hofmann, who sources say may have used 
the money to purchase the missing Mormon McLellin 
Papers. 

The article in the Tribune named “Elder Hugh W. Pinnock.” It also 
repeated the accusation that Hofmann did “regular business with Presi- 
dent Gordon B. Hinckley," and reported for the first time Hofmann's 
meeting with Pinnock in the Church Office Building parking lot the 
morning after Christensen was killed. 

Pinnock had had some warning. After checking the story with several 
sources, Tribune reporter Mike Carter had called him and asked him to 



LYING FOR THE LORD 257 

confirm it. Finnock was dumbstruck. “Oh, gee, well. Yeah, gee, 1 don’t 
think 1 can talk about that.” 

But Carter pressed ahead. “I am writing this story, and I’d really 
appreciate it if you’d clear up any misconceptions that I have.” He read 
the first few paragraphs. When he stopped, there was a moment of utter 
silence on the line. Finally, Pinnock said, “I can’t talk to you.” 

The Tribune ran the story in the first edition. 

Before the second edition went to press, Pinnock managed to formulate 
a new response. He called Carter back: The loan in question “was not out 
of the ordinary,” he insisted. And the reports that the Church was plan- 
ning to buy the McLellin Collection were “completely false ... the purest 
of fabrication.” 

Later that day, Pinnock issued a terse, two-page statement to drive 
home the key points. It was a model of deft, legalistic, and impeccably 
truthful distortion. Alluding to the night on which Steve Christensen and 
Mark Hofmann came to his house and retrieved a $20,000 check from 
Shannon Flynn, which was then used to pay down the loan (the same 
night Christensen called Pinnock from Hofmann’s car phone to assure 
him “the check is in my pocket”), Pinnock simply noted, “I have been 
informed that several weeks ago Mr. Hofmann brought the interest on 
the loan up to date and made a partial payment to First Interstate Bank.” 

In accordance with what appeared to be the Church’s emerging grand 
strategy, Pinnock emphasized that he was not acting on behalf of the 
Church, that Christensen had come to him “because of the career I had 
had in business before being called as a General Authority,” and that the 
Church itself had no interest in the McLellin Collection. No mention at 
all was made of David Sorensen or the Church’s second, more recent 
effort to acquire the Collection. 

The statement also included the bizarre observation: “I have found Mr. 
Christensen to be honorable and open in all dealings” — as though Steve 
Christensen’s reputation was somehow in question. “Our thoughts and 
prayers have been with the families of all affected parties,” he concluded, 
“and we pray the Lord’s protecting hand will be with them.” 

If Pinnock thought that would satisfy the press, he was woefully mis- 
taken. The next day, his name appeared in the New York Times, and the 
day after that, A1 Rust came forward to say that Mark Hofmann had told 
him that the Church had bought the McLellin Collection months ago. 

The Church, of course, denied it, but the Church had denied having 
sensitive documents before and been caught red-handed. Was this just 
another Josiah Stowell letter? Another damaging piece of history that the 



258 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Church was trying to deep-six in The Vault? Did Steve Christensen and 
Mark Hofmann know that? Is that why they were blown up? 

The rumors flew like shrapnel. Like it or not, the Church was now in 
the middle of a murder investigation — up to its clerical neck. 



Unprecedented problems called for unprecedented solu- 
tions. On Wednesday, October 23, the Church called a 
press conference to “tell all” about its dealings with Mark Hofmann 
and Steve Christensen, and to put an end, once and forever, to the 
scurrilous rumors. 

This wasn’t just any press conference. On the elevated stage, usually 
occupied by some obscure spokesman from the Church Office of Com- 
munications belaboring the obvious to the oblivious, sat three senior 
officials of the LDS Church: Hugh Pinnock, a member of the First 
Quorum of the Seventy; Dallin Oaks, a member of the Council of the 
Twelve Apostles, and Gordon Hinckley himself, second counselor in the 
First Presidency and, as everyone in the room knew well, the most power- 
ful man in the Church. 

The event was impeccably stage-managed. The three officials sat be- 
hind a conference table overlooking the small, carefully chosen audience 
in the 350-seat auditorium in the Church OEce Building. Television 
cameras and lights filled the back of the room. The “ground rules” were 
announced: like a televised presidential news conference, reporters would 
be allowed only one question and one follow-up. Mike Carter, who broke 
the loan story, remembers, “The reporters were a little nervous. The 
intimidation factor was definitely there. These guys up there weren’t just 
people, they were prophets of God, and on a first-name basis with the 
Lord, at least.” 

That was the message: the Church wasn’t obliged to give a press 
conference, it wasn’t badgered into giving a press conference. This was 
a favor, granted to the media in the spirit of noblesse oblige. 

To underscore that this controversy was a mere blip in the great ongo- 
ing work of the Church, it was scheduled to begin only one hour before 
the dedication of the Church’s new Genealogy Building, an event at 
which the Church leaders were required to be present. One hour minus 




LYING FOR THE LORD 259 



the twenty minutes needed to walk to the dedication, minus twenty 
minutes for opening statements, that would leave about twenty min- 
utes — no more — for questions. Lest reporters forget, Richard P. Lindsay, 
Director of Public Communications for the Church, opened the press 
conference by reminding them: “We will try to stay carefully on sched- 
ule.” 

Hinckley began with expressions of sympathy to the “families and 
associates of those who have been victims of the bombings in our commu- 
nity. That such tragedies could occur here is beyond our comprehension.” 

Then he came out swinging. 

In defense of the Church’s efforts to procure documents, Hinckley said, 
God told us to do it. “The Church’s interest in documents and artifacts 
pertaining to its history was mandated through revelation.” It was an 
explanation worthy of Joseph Smith. As for the Church’s methods in 
acquiring documents, Hinckley insisted that they had “followed the nor- 
mal, accepted, and professional procedures employed by collectors gener- 
ally.” 

As for the accusations that the Church was hiding documents, Hinck- 
ley claimed that he personally had made the decision to make sensitive 
documents public. He cited two in particular, the Salamander Letter and 
the Josiah Stowell letter, that he had voluntarily released to the press. 
There was no mention of the fact that both documents were made public 
only after they had leaked or that one had been kept secret from the 
Church’s own archivist for two years. 

As for Steve Christensen, Hinckley didn’t really know him. “While I 
had received a letter earlier indicating Mr. Christensen’s desire to donate 
the document to the Church after research on it had been completed, I 
have no recollection nor any record of his ever having been in my office 
until the day he presented it to the Church. Nor has he been in my office 
since then.” 

As for Mark Hofmann, Hinckley didn ’t really know him either. And the 
meetings with Hofmann? “Many people come to see me,” said Hinckley, 
suddenly expansive, echoing Hugh Pinnock’s sermon to Detective Bell. 
“Many from many areas across the world, about scores of matters. I have 
tried to maintain a reasonable open-door policy and have met and talked 
with many hundreds, if not thousands.” Hofmann was just one among the 
faceless masses. 

And what about the rumors that he met with Hofmann only days 
before the bombing? Hinckley said that Hofmann had come to discuss 
“the so-called Kinderhook plates” — the bogus plates that Joseph Smith 



260 THE MORMON MURDERS 



was fooled into “translating'' — but Hinckley’s “recollection of this epi- 
sode of history was dim." 

“That concludes my statement," said Hinckley, with emphasis on the 
word concludes . 

Dallin Oaks was next. 

“I welcome this opportunity to share what I know about what appeared 
to be a normal, though confidential, commercial transaction." 

Oaks went immediately on the offensive. “With the benefit of hind- 
sight, and in the feverish context of a murder investigation, and in the 
glare and innuendo of publicity accompanying the recent investigations, 
a normal though confidential proposed commercial transaction has been 
made to appear sinister and underhanded. My own contact with it has 
been seen as mysterious and questionable. 1 therefore welcome the oppor- 
tunity to set the public record straight." 

Oaks apparently wanted to convey two messages to the assembled 
reporters: one, the Church had done nothing improper; and two, Dallin 
Oaks was a very wise man indeed. 

As for the McLellin Collection, Oaks insisted that he had made it clear 
from the beginning that the Church shouldn't be involved even indirectly 
in the acquisition of the McLellin Collection and had “so advised Elder 
Pinnock." When asked if the Church would be interested in receiving the 
Collection as a gift, Oaks had informed Pinnock “that the Church proba- 
bly would at some future date, but in that event it had to be a genuine 
gift from a real donor." 

Nor, according to Oaks, did the Church seek out collectors to buy the 
Collection, although it may have “brought the Collection's availability to 
their attention." In fact, by Oaks's telling, the suggestion of a donation 
came as a complete surprise to the Church, and his response, when asked 
if the Church would be willing to accept it, was a disinterested “I suppose 
so." (Missing from both Hinckley's and Oaks's accounts was the fact that 
Sorensen wasn't a collector at all, and never would have bought the 
Collection if the Church hadn't approached him.) 

As for the loan arranged by Pinnock, Oaks again took pains to exculpate 
the Church and congratulate himself. “I said I saw no harm in that, 
provided it was clearly understood by all parties that the Church was not 
a party or a guarantor and that Hugh Pinnock was not a party or a 
guarantor to such a loan." 

As for his meeting with Hofmann, Oaks was willing to breach the wall 
of confidentiality that normally protects “a conversation between a Gen- 
eral Authority and a member of the Church," and read the unfaultable 



LYING FOR THE LORD 261 



instructions he had given Hofmann in their meeting: “Hofmann came to 
my office and said he thought the police would question him. What 
should he say when they questioned him? And I said, ‘You should simply 
tell them the truth.’ ” 

Hugh Pinnock was next. Except Hugh Pinnock had nothing to say. 
Elder Pinnock has already issued his statement, said Richard Lindsay, and 
copies were available. 

Hinckley and Oaks had decided, apparently, that Hugh Pinnock had 
already said more than enough. 

Finally came the questions — barely fifteen minutes’ worth. 

Dawn Tracy of the Tribune wanted to know why Don Schmidt, the 
Church archivist, wasn’t informed when the Church purchased the Josiah 
Stowell letter? And why didn’t Dean Jessee, the foremost authority on 
Joseph Smith’s handwriting, find out about the letter until after it was 
acquired? In other words, who exactly did authenticate that letter? This 
was a direct challenge to Hinckley’s statement that the Church had 
followed “normal, accepted, and professional procedures” in all its docu- 
ment dealings. A hush fell over the room. 

“I don’t know why Don Schmidt wasn’t advised,” said Hinckley good- 
naturedly. “The head of the Historical Department knew about it.” The 
head of the Historical Department, G. Homer Durham, had brought the 
Stowell letter directly to Hinckley. Contrary to Hinckley’s implication, it 
was he, not Durham, who had ordered the letter kept secret. 

Next question. 

A young reporter mumbled his name and identified himself as KBYU 
News. That was all the Brethren needed to hear. This had to be a slow 
pitch, a B.Y.U. journalism student, all eagerness and deference, who 
probably knew nothing about the case. What could be safer? 

“This is to President Hinckley. A few months ago the L A. Times did 
an article on the Cowdery papers, and John Dart, who was the author, 
had a ‘Deep Throat’ source that said someone had access to the First 
Presidency vault. I was wondering if you could tell us who that person was 
and if it was Mark Hofmann.” 

It was a fast-inside curve ball. Oaks and Hinckley shifted in their chairs, 
obviously wondering who had let this rogue into the room. 

On the spot, the best Hinckley could come up with was a clumsy 
obfuscation. “I’d like to know if someone has access to the First Presi- 
dency’s vault,” he said. “I don’t have. Except through the one man who 
has the combination. I couldn’t get in there if I wanted to without one 
individual who has the combination to go into that vault letting me go 



262 THE MORMON MURDERS 



in there.” What he didn’t say was that the one man who had the combina- 
tion was one of his subordinates, and all he had to do was instruct the 
individual to let him in. 

This was not the way it was supposed to go. Oaks went from cocky to 
testy. 

When Rodd Arquette of KUTV asked, “Do you believe that the 
McLellin papers exist at all, and if so, are you still interested in purchasing 
them?” Oaks commandeered the mike. 

“Your question assumes that the Church is interested in purchasing 
them, and I stated flatly the Church is not. Would you like to rephrase 
your questions?” 

“Do you believe they exist?” 

“What I believe about the existence or nonexistence of the McLellin 
Collection is really quite beside the point.” 

Arquette picked an easier target. “Elder Pinnock, do you feel it is 
proper for a high-ranking official of the LDS Church to help secure a loan 
for any member of the Church, as has been reported that you did so for 
one Mark Hofmann?” 

Pinnock smiled nervously. “When they came in that Friday afternoon, 
and when at that time I called two banks, I had not thought it improper. 
1 was calling on what I thought was a legitimate transaction. I will say that 
there comes into our offices many people asking questions, but we would 
certainly not use our office for a favor for someone that was inappropri- 
ate.” His grammar, like his poise, was falling apart. 

Richard Lindsay jumped in. “One final question. Someone that’s not 
had the opportunity.” He scanned the room for someone innocuous 
looking. He picked another B.Y.U. student. 

“Brad Mauss with KBYU News. I just have a question. Why is the 
Church so intent on getting the papers? Is it to secure them in the right 
hands so that they are not taken advantage of and make the Church look 
bad? And where does the money come from to purchase these letters?” 

That was enough. Oaks grabbed the mike. “Again — why, you say, is the 
Church so intent on getting the papers? I thought it was clear from my 
statement that the Church was very intent on not getting the papers, so 
that there would be no misunderstanding about this. Could you rephrase 
that question?” 

Oaks had successfully intimidated the young reporter into incoherence. 
“. . . letters in the past, like the blessing that Joseph gave to his son and 
other letters,” Mauss stumbled. 

Hinckley stepped in to bring the conference to a close with an ink cloud 



LYING KOK THE LORD 263 



of homilies and a plug for the new genealogical library. “Well, of course, 
I explained in my statement. I think very clearly that we are under 
mandate. . . . We have an obligation to keep a history of the Church, and 
we regard that very seriously. We are going over to dedicate the new 
genealogical library. It is essentially a historical library. It’s cost a very 
handsome sum, and it’s a beautiful archive. The finest in the world, and 
the purpose of it is historical — historical research.” 

The audience was ended. Lindsay thanked, not the reporters, but his 
bosses for discharging this burdensome duty with such grace and candor. 

Reactions to the press conference varied. The Church leaders were report- 
edly fuming at the thorny questions posed by the B.Y.U. students. It was 
one thing to suffer the blasphemous skepticism of the Tribune, but to get 
blindsided by representatives from the Church’s own university, a univer- 
sity that Oaks himself had once presided over — that was intolerable. 

The next day, a letter of apology from Thomas A. Griffiths, the Direc- 
tor of Broadcast Services at B.Y.U., was on Oaks’s desk. 

Dear Elder Oaks, 

Just a note to commend you on your normal preciseness and forthright- 
ness at today’s news conference regarding the historical documents issue. 
The information helped all of us understand what has been going on and 
provided valuable insight into how the Church operates. 

1 must also apologize for one of our KBYU reporters, Brad Mauss. His 
final question at the news conference clearly demonstrated that he had not 
listened and understood what was stated earlier. Unfortunately, we are only 
able to discover a student reporter’s weaknesses when they are actually 
under pressure to perform. 

Watching the conference on television at home, Terri Christensen felt 
her blood rising. She remembered all the times Steve had dropped what- 
ever he was doing because Hinckley had called and wanted to see him. 
She remembered the confidential files, the long, familiar letters to Hinck- 
ley — Personal & Confidential **. Now he was telling the world that he 
hardly knew Steve. And she wanted to know why. 

At Katie Sheets Robertson’s house, Joe Robertson watched the press 
conference while Kathy Sheets’s granddaughter Molly played nearby. He 
remembered the time Steve Christensen had borrowed his car. “Mine is 
in the shop,” he said, “and I’ve got to go meet with President Hinckley.” 
Mark Hofmann was standing there beside him, and Steve introduced him. 



264 THE MORMON MURDERS 



When he returned the car, Steve said that he and Mark and President 
Hinckley were “working on some stuff that makes the Harris letter look 
like a priesthood manual.” And now Hinckley was telling the world he 
didn’t really know either Steve or Hofmann. And he wanted to know why. 

In the back of the auditorium, Detective Don Bell stood against the 
wall and listened to the Church leaders. He felt momentarily vindicated 
when Hinckley admitted that he had met with Hofmann. “I knew it,” 
he said softly to himself. Pinnock had lied to him. In any other investiga- 
tion, he would have been on the phone that afternoon to Pinnock, saying, 
“Listen. Don’t you ever lie to me again.” But as he watched the three men 
on the stage read their statements and deflect the softball questions, 
another realization crept up on him. 

This wasn’t any other investigation. That Mormon officer who ticked 
him off the other day had been right. These people were different. And 
they would have to be treated differently if he or anybody else was ever 
going to get at the truth. 



PART FOUR 



Total Faith 



On the morning of October 17, Jim Bell returned to LDS 
Hospital to interview Mark Hofmann. He felt a lot smarter 
this time. In the eighteen hours since the last interview, he had talked to 
Jerry Taylor, the ATF’s crack bomb man. There was no doubt about it: 
Hofmann wasn’t a victim. He wasn’t even a suspect, really. He was the 
bomber. Like any good cop, Bell hoped for a confession. 

Another detective and a nurse were with him in the room. He leaned 
close so Hofmann could hear him. 

“This is Jim Bell, Mark,’’ he said. “I’m the guy who was here yester- 
day.’’ 

Mark said he recognized him. 

“Can you hear me, understand me?” 

When Hofmann said yes, Bell pulled out his Miranda card and read 
Hofmann his rights. 

“Do you understand your rights?” 

“Yes.” 

“Do you waive your rights to an attorney?” 

“Yes.” 

“And you feel like talking to me?” 

“Yes.” 

Now Bell was set to start again. “What happened when you got to your 
car?” 

“I walked up to the car and opened it and a package fell off the seat 
onto the floorboard and exploded.” It was the same answer as yesterday, 
only today Bell knew it was a lie. 

“Were you the person who had parked your car at that location?” 

“Yes.” 

“Where were you coming from?” 

“I had just been in a meeting at the LDS Church, in the basement of 
the Church library. . . . After I left the Church, I walked through the 
Deseret Gym, got a drink, and walked to my car. I went to my trunk first, 
dien I opened up my car door. That’s when the package fell.” 

“When you opened up the door, which hand did you open it with?” 

“My right hand.” 




267 



268 THE MORMON MURDERS 



“Did you go anywhere else before you opened up the car door?’’ 

“1 went to the trunk.” 

“Who would want to kill you? Do you know anybody who would want 
to kill you?” 

“No, I don’t.” 

Bell decided to lower the boom. “You should know,” he began slowly, 
“that I am confident you’re the bomber.” 

He paused to let that sink in. 

“We did a search of your vehicle and your house, and we recovered 
some pipe and gloves and the letter jacket. I’m interested in why you killed 
those people.” 

Hofmann said, very coolly, “I didn’t, I didn’t do it.” 

Bell pressed. “Listen, I know you’re the guy. We’ve got your letter 
jacket, Mark, and a witness saw you wearing the letter jacket when you 
carried the bomb up the elevator in Steve Christensen’s building.” 

At that, every medical alarm in the room went off: the heart monitor, 
the IV monitor, the respirator, the whole battery of them lit up and sang 
and chirped like a video arcade. The nurse asked them to leave and 
ushered them hurriedly out the door. Another nurse rushed in at the 
sound of the alarms. 

On the way out, Bell turned to the other detective and said with a 
satisfied smile, “That’s the best polygraph I’ve ever seen.” 

That afternoon, the day nurse told Hofmann’s lawyer, Ron Yengich, 
about the interview with Bell. “When they began to talk with him, his 
vital signs jumped off the chart,” she said. Yengich, a short, fiery man with 
a Yosemite Sam mustache and an unscratchable itch for confrontation, 
had seen this kind of thing before and it made him flaming mad. Growing 
up small and Catholic in the tough Mormon mining town of Bingham, 
Utah, where his Croatian grandparents settled, he had seen his share of 
bullying: by the Kennecott Copper Company, which devoured Bingham; 
by the company management that fought his father, a labor leader in a 
state where unions were considered the tools of Satan; and by local 
Mormons who wouldn’t let their children play with non-Mormon kids like 
Ron Yengich. 

But Yengich wasn’t about to knuckle under to the system. He fought 
his way out of Bingham and into college on a baseball scholarship. After 
law school, he continued to mine the same rich vein of childhood resent- 
ments, building a profitable practice and earning a reputation as the most 
aggressive — possibly the best — criminal defense lawyer in Utah. He liked 



to say that his heroes were the Pee Wee Reeses of the world, “scrappy, 
little people without a lot of skills who made it big.” People like Mark 
Hofmann. 

Yengich ordered the men from the sheriff’s office on duty not to 
interview Hofmann unless he or his assistant, G. Fred Metos, was present. 
Then he shot off letters to all the law enforcement authorities informing 
them that he was representing Hofmann and that no one was to speak 
with his client if he wasn’t present. To prevent another incident like the 
one that morning, he sent a letter to the hospital instructing them that 
if any policeman attempted to speak to Hofmann, they were to call him, 
Yengich, immediately, at home if necessary. Short of standing round-the- 
clock vigil at the bedside, it was the best he could do. 

It wasn’t good enough. About 11:30 that night, the night-shift nurse, 
Nancy Loden, heard Hofmann’s alarms go off. From her monitors, she 
could see that his respiratory, heart, and blood-pressure signs were rising 
dangerously. She rushed into his room and found a policeman and two 
hospital security guards around Hofmann’s bed. 

She had been warned about this. When she came on duty about 6:45 
that evening, the day-shift nurse had told her about the interview that 
morning and the angry letter from Yengich. “If anyone should fry and 
question Mark, or if Mark needs him,” she was told, “notify Yengich.” 
Loden didn’t have to hear anything more. She was already fuming over 
what Ken Farnsworth had said to Nurse Bowdoin the night before: “You 
patch him up, and we’ll stand him up and execute him.” That slip had 
quickly made the rounds of the hospital staff, and nobody was more 
burned up about it than Loden. As the daughter of a public defender — 
and a lawyer herself some day, she hoped — she knew all about oppressive 
police tactics. Now they were invading her territory — no one is more 
territorial than a night nurse — and she wasn’t going to stand for it. 

She walked up to Hofmann’s bed, wedging herself between him and 
his tormentors. She asked if he needed anything. Mark said, very gravely, 
“I would like to make a statement, so I need a tape recorder.” 

Loden leaped into the breach. “Are you aware that you could have your 
lawyer present?” 

“Yes,” Hofmann answered. 

“Would you like me to call your lawyer?” 

“Yes.” 

She rushed into the anteroom, picked up the phone, and notified her 
nursing supervisor, Betty Townsend, to call Ron Yengich. Yengich was 
on his way out the door to take his girlfriend home for the night but 



270 THE MORMON MURDERS 



insisted she come with him to the hospital instead. “I want an indepen- 
dent witness,” he said, “in case the cops have him down and are bludgeon- 
ing him with their sticks.” He also called Metos and told him to get to 
the hospital immediately. 

Meanwhile, the policeman at Hofmann’s bedside, Scott Hallock, 
rushed to the phone in the special-procedures room and called Sergeant 
Duffy Diamond. Hofmann had asked for a tape recorder. He wanted to 
make a statement. “The nurse has already called Mark’s lawyer,” said 
Hallock. “Why? I don’t know. And she won’t let me near his bed.” 
Diamond called Jim Bell and told him to get to the hospital on the double. 
Hofmann was ready to confess. 

The race was on. 

Loden rushed back into Hofmann’s room. His blood pressure had indeed 
risen, his heart rate had shot from about 100 to a whopping 180 and 
higher. He was shaking so badly he could hardly keep the thermometer 
in his mouth. When she finally got a reading, his temperature was normal, 
which only confirmed her suspicions that he wasn’t feverish, he was just 
terrified. When he asked to be positioned a little differently, she cleared 
the men from around the bed and ordered them to back off. 

After that she washed his clammy face with cool water and swabbed 
his mouth — and swabbed and swabbed and swabbed. 

Anything, it seemed, to keep him quiet until Yengich arrived. 

She talked to him, ostensibly trying to calm him down. Meanwhile, 
Officer Hallock grew increasingly impatient and angry. Hofmann obvi- 
ously wanted to talk, and he wanted to talk before his lawyer arrived. Only 
Nurse Loden wouldn't let him. 

Finally, Hallock lost his patience. “You’re not a lawyer, you know, 
you’re just a nurse.” 

It was absolutely the wrong thing to say. 

“fust a nurse,” she huffed. 

Yengich won the race, arriving about 12:45 a.m. The first thing he did 
was to ask the police to step outside. 

“He wants to talk to us,” said Hallock, outright angry by now. 

“Hey, he’s not talking.” Yengich would show him what real anger 
looked like. “Call your captain. Call whoever you have to. But he’s not 
going to talk. And I’m staying here to make certain he doesn’t talk to you. 
Now I want everybody out of the room so I can talk to him.” 

Hallock refused to leave. “He’s not to be left alone.” 



TOTAL FAITH 271 

Yengich turned to Hofmann. “Mark, are you going to follow my ad- 
vice?” 

Hofmann nodded. “Yeah.” 

“We’re not talking to them. We’ve got to call your father. I want to 
call your father.” Yengich had known Hofmann only since eleven that 
morning, when Bill Hofmann first contacted him. But he had already seen 
enough to know that Mark Hofmann obeyed his father. If the “Shut up” 
came from Bill Hofmann, Mark Hofmann would shut up. At the mention 
of his father, Hofmann’s blood pressure/heart rate alarm went off. 

When Jim Bell finally arrived, he told the uniformed officers to leave 
the room so Yengich could talk to his client. “Don’t put the nurse in the 
position again of having to notify me,” Yengich warned him as the 
policemen filed out. Nurse Loden remained in the room with Yengich and 
Hofmann. 

During the conversation. Bell could hear the alarms go off several times. 
He had a good idea of what Hofmann was saying. 

When he heard Hallock’s story of Nurse Loden’s actions, Jim Bell’s 
own alarms went off. He was furious. It was one thing for her to call 
Yengich, but it was something else entirely for her to keep Hofmann 
occupied, even to prevent him from confessing by swabbing out his mouth 
endlessly and needlessly until Yengich arrived. As far as Bell was con- 
cerned, Hofmann had wanted to confess and she had prevented him. If 
it hadn’t been for her, the case would be over now. They would have a 
confession, and the rest would be paperwork. If she had been standing 
there, he would have slapped handcuffs on her on the spot. Fortunately, 
he had time to tell himself that the case was too important to blow it with 
some rash mistake. Besides, she was in the room with Hofmann at that 
moment, listening to everything he said. Maybe he could still get that 
confession. 

When Yengich finally emerged from Hofmann’s room, Bell heard him 
ask Nurse Loden, “Did you hear anything?” She said yes. First thing 
tomorrow morning, Bell thought, he would get a warrant and find out 
what she had heard. 

As soon as Yengich left, Nurse Loden sedated Hofmann. That would 
keep him quiet for the rest of the night. 



Ill THE MORMON MURDERS 



The next morning, October 18, Jim Bell and Ron Yengich 
met at the hospital with Bud Ellett from the county attor- 
ney’s office. Yengich wanted to deal. He hedged it with hypothetical, 
but the message was unmistakable: “Life in exchange for a guilty plea. 
You give me life in prison, and I’ll give you the other people who are 
involved.” 

If Jim Bell needed any more proof that Hofmann had confessed, this 
was it. Little Markie had spilled his guts to Yengich, and the nurse had 
heard everything. 

As Yengich walked out with the offer still dangling, Gerry D’Elia, 
another prosecutor from the county attorney’s office walked in on his way 
to see Nurse Loden. 

If anybody on the public side of the case was Ron Yengich ’s equal it 
was Gerry D’Elia. Short, short-tempered, cynical, and street smart, D’Elia 
was, like Yengich, a child of the sixties, always humming a Beatles or a 
Stones tune between bursts of manic energy. Born in New Jersey and 
raised in an Italian Catholic family, he was also about as out-of-place as 
an American could get in uptight, upright Utah. What brought him here 
wasn’t the religion, it was the skiing. The higher he could get in the 
mountains, the closer he got to a nosebleed, the happier he was. In the 
middle of winter, he was always tan, his brown hair streaked with gold 
highlights from hours in the brilliant white, reflected sunlight of the 
slopes. 

On or off the slopes, he was, like Yengich, a risk taker and a poker 
player. 

When Bell briefed him on Yengich’s offer, D’Elia brushed it off. “We 
are not far enough into the case to even talk about a plea,” but, like 
everybody else, he took it as a sure sign that Hofmann was guilty and that 
Nurse Loden knew he was guilty. If they could get her testimony, they 
wouldn’t need to deal. 

But it wasn’t going to be that easy. 

The next morning Loden arrived at the Hall of Justice with shorts on, 
a chip on her shoulder, and a lawyer from the Church ’s law firm . A plain, 
stocky woman in her thirties with brown hair, Loden radiated hostility. 




TOTAL FAITH 273 



She made it clear that she couldn’t wait to go to law school so she could 
save society from overreaching law enforcement officials. She and the 
Church’s buttoned-up, establishment lawyer, Charles W. Dahlquist, 
made an odd pair. 

He opened the meeting with a bombshell. It was the position of the 
hospital’s counsel that the conversation overheard by Nurse Loden was 
subject to the attorney-client privilege. 

Ceny D’Elia didn’t like the sound of that one bit. This was the third 
time in three days he had pursued some evidence only to find the Church 
standing in his way. First, the person that he sent to the Church to get 
Hofmann’s documents had come back empty-handed. “We don’t trust 
local law enforcement,’’ they told him. Then, they had shipped the 
Salamander Letter off to the FBI so the county attorneys could never get 
their hands on it. And now, a woman who had overheard a confession by 
the prime suspect was being told by a Church lawyer who had nothing 
to do with the case not to answer questions. 

Why would the Church want to protect Mark Hofmann? 

“I won’t have my client answer the questions you are giving me,” said 
Dahlquist. 

“Why not? Who are you?” D’Elia’s temperature, always high, was 
approaching boil. “You’re just here to make sure she doesn’t end up in 
a bind, not to stop her from helping out.” 

“I am not letting her answer any questions against Mark Hofmann. I 
feel that there is an inadequate basis for you to ask the questions.” 

D’Elia couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “What is going on here? 
The Church this. The Church that. Now 1 got the Church with the 
nurse.” He asked himself, not for the first time, if there could be a 
conspiracy of some kind, headed up by the Church, and, if so, why? “Fine, 
then,” said D’Elia. “You stay here while I go over to the court and find 
the first judge I can.” He would get a judge to grant a motion compelling 
her to talk — now. “Then we’ll sit down right now. I’ve already got a court 
reporter lined up.” 

It wasn’t that easy. None of the judges wanted to touch it. Compel a 
woman to testify over the objections of Church counsel? No way. One 
judge suggested he go back to the judge who issued the investigative 
subpoena. “Get him to hear you,” he said. “I don’t want to hear it.” 
Neither did the second, third, or fourth judge D’Elia went to. 

“I have a legal issue that hasn’t been assigned to anybody yet,” he 
pleaded. “All I want you to do is to hear the legal issue.” 

“I don’t want to hear it this morning.” 



274 THE MORMON MURDERS 



“I have a criminal investigation here with a homicidal maniac out on 
the street planting bombs. What do you mean you don't want to hear it 
this morning?" 

Finally, he got ahold of the judge who had signed the subpoena, Dean 
E. Conder. Conder agreed to hear the motion at two that afternoon. 
Meanwhile, Dahlquist called Yengich and told him to get down to the 
courthouse in a hurry. That only contributed to D'Elia's growing suspi- 
cion that he was up against a conspiracy. 

Yengich and Metos arrived in time for the hearing. Dahlquist repre- 
sented Loden, and D'Elia represented the county attorney's office. Yen- 
gich began with a request that the proceedings be kept confidential. Judge 
Conder agreed. 

D’Elia tore into Loden. “Mr. Hofmann began asking for the officer, or 
asking for a tape recorder, if I recollect, and this nurse, Nancy Loden, took 
it upon herself to intervene in this situation." He wanted permission, not 
only to depose the nurse as to the contents of the conversation she 
overheard, but also to look into any criminal actions that might be brought 
against her for obstruction of justice. “If this gentleman [Hofmann] at one 
time wanted to waive any right to counsel or waive any right to his silence, 
or whatever the case may be, we want to investigate the possibilities of 
this nurse being any party to the obstruction of justice." 

Yengich argued that he told Nurse Loden to stay across the room but 
she said she couldn't leave, that it was a medical necessity for her to be 
there. 

“I am not going to call anybody a liar," D’Elia shot back, “but regard- 
less of what is being said, I want an opportunity to explore this myself." 

Dahlquist argued that irreparable harm might be done to the hospital 
if Loden was compelled to testify. “I am scared we'll be held liable if it 
should turn out that she comes within the attorney-client privilege. We'll 
get sued over it." 

D'Elia jumped out of his chair. “How can you get sued over it?" he 
protested. “That’s totally ridiculous." 

Throughout the heated session, D'Elia couldn't shake the feeling that 
there was a dimension to the proceedings that he was missing. “I was a 
non-Mormon in Mormon land," he said later — Alice through the Look- 
ing-Glass, not just pushing against the nurse or the lawyers or even Hof- 
mann, but against a whole system. 

Judge Conder decided D'Elia could depose Nurse Loden, but not on what 
Hofmann had said. “You can't ask her what she overheard but you can 



TOTAL FAITH 275 



ask her about the circumstances surrounding it to see if she was really 
necessary,” he ruled. If the deposition made it clear that the nurse’s 
presence was not a matter of medical necessity, then he might reverse his 
decision and allow her to be questioned on the substance of the conversa- 
tion overheard. 

The deposition was taken at 4: 1 5 that afternoon. Dahlquist represented 
Nancy Loden. Ken Farnsworth joined D’Elia. Loden lived up to her 
billing as surly and uncooperative. Both D’Elia and Dahlquist had to 
remind her to speak up for the court reporter. When she did speak up, 
she laced her answers with impenetrable, officious medical jargon. 

Still, the facts came out. 

First, Nurse Loden was not tied down to Hofmann’s room. As the nurse 
in charge of the unit, which included twelve other rooms, she had other 
duties that required her to leave Hofmann’s room several times. “I was 
in and out probably ten times,” she admitted when asked to be specific, 
although never for “longer than five or ten minutes.” 

This was exactly what D’Elia had been waiting to hear. “Let’s go back 
to the point where Mr. Yengich entered the room and he had a conversa- 
tion with Mr. Hofmann. What was it that Mr. Yengich asked you, if 
anything, with respect to your being present in the room during his 
conversation with his client?” 

Her face went blank. “I don’t remember anything.” 

“Did he ever state to you that he wanted you to leave the room?” 
Loden just shook her head. 

“ Audibly , please,” prodded D’Elia. 

“No.” 

“Did he ever state to you that there was an attorney-client privilege of 
which you must keep secret anything that he was talking about to his 
client?” 

“No.” 

“Did he ever discuss whether or not you were necessary in that room?” 
“No.” 

“Do you remember telling Mr. Yengich or Mr. Metos that you had to 
specifically stay in that room with Mr. Hofmann because, if you left, you 
were worried about his condition?” 

“I don’t know if I stated it to them. I was worried about his condition 
at the time.” 

“But you don’t recall whether you stated it or not?” 

“I mentioned it. I don’t know who I — you know, there were people in 
the room.” 



276 THE MORMON MURDERS 



D’Elia asked about the links between Hofmann’s room and the com- 
puter monitors at the desk outside. “You can sit at that desk in the 
[intensive care] unit and not be in the room with Mark and not be within 
earshot of conversation and still monitor all the vital life signs; is that 
correct?” 

“Yes.” 

The only excuse she could give for staying in the room was, “I didn’t 
feel comfortable leaving the room at that time.” In her “best nursing 
judgment,” Hofmann could not have been monitored from outside the 
room. 

But the hearing resolved nothing except a court date for another hear- 
ing. Even if Conder reversed his opinion (which he eventually did) and 
allowed Nurse Loden to be questioned, it was clear by now that Yengich 
could keep the police away from her for at least another month while he 
appealed the order, all the way up to the Utah Supreme Court if neces- 
sary. 

If they wanted to nail Mark Hofmann, they would have to find another 
way. 



If they couldn’t get a confession from Hofmann, maybe 
they could get one from somebody close to him. 

Somebody like Lyn Jacobs. 

Even his friends wondered how much Jacobs knew. Peggy Fletcher, the 
editor of Sunstone, remembered how cool Jacobs had been at the news 
of the bombings — even the one that hit Hofmann. She and the rest of 
the Sunstone staff had been listening in shock, disbelief, and near panic 
to the first reports when Jacobs bounced in, unnaturally calm. And why, 
in the first few days afterward, did he play hide-and-seek with the police? 

“When you heard the news, why didn’t you run?” Fletcher asked. 
“Why didn’t you run for your life?” 

Jacobs told her Dorie had come back from the hospital with good news: 
Mark was sure a Mormon fanatic had set the bombs. 

“All the more reason to run,” said Fletcher. Jacobs, after all, had 
discovered the infamous Salamander Letter. 

“Nobody knows my face,” he answered. 




TOTAL FAITH 277 



It wasn’t an answer. Who knew Hofmann’s face? 

Jacobs always had some piece of inside information that proved once 
and for all that Mark was innocent. The day after the bombings, he came 
to Fletcher’s office and announced, “Mark couldn’t be the bomber be- 
cause the bomber had a letter jacket, and Mark lost his months ago.” 

How did he know that? 

“Dorie told me that when it happened.” 

Why would Dorie tell him something like that? Fletcher wondered. 
The next day, the letter jacket was found on the floor of Hofmann’s closet. 

More and more, Jacobs looked less and less like an innocent bystander. 
After all, if Hofmann was running a documents scam of some kind, 
Jacobs, with his command of languages and history and his Harvard 
credentials, could have been a very useful asset. 

When the police finally sat him down in the interview room on the 
eighth floor of the Hall of Justice, Jacobs started chattering and wouldn’t 
stop. “It was like putting a nickel in the slot,” said Ken Farnsworth. 

Jacobs began by repeating all of the old lies about how he, not Mark 
Hofmann, had discovered the Salamander Letter — lies that would haunt 
him through the early stages of the investigation. Then suddenly, in the 
midst of the questioning, a name popped up that no one expected to hear, 
at least not in this room, under these circumstances. 

“Did you have an association with the man — with President Hinck- 
ley?” Detective Don Bell asked Jacobs. 

“Not really.” 

“Does Mark?” 

“Yeah. He’s in constant contact with President Hinckley. They’ve 
worked together for several years. They’re very dear friends as far as I can 
tell.” Later, Jacobs told them that Hinckley “called [Mark] on his birthday 
and said. Happy birthday, and all that kind of stuff.” 

“Would it surprise you,” asked Detective Bell, “if I told you that I 
think [Markj’s the bomber?” 

“That’s what I’ve been hearing all day long,” said Jacobs, working his 
way toward indignation. “I don’t buy it. I do know he’s in debt. But 
everybody’s in debt, it’s just a question of how much. ... I just don’t buy 
it. Not in a million years. Unless he went nuts, just went cracko for some 
reason. Anybody in this whole world can go cracko tomorrow. But the 
point is that that is not the Mark I know. I know him as one of the most 
level-headed, incredibly ingenious people I’ve ever known, as far as dealing 
with these documents is concerned.” 

Bell thought about that for a moment. “Jacobs, I think either your 



278 THE MORMON MURDERS 



friend has gone crazy or you didn't know him as well as you thought you 
did.” 

Jacobs had reached indignation. "What makes you believe this?” he 
demanded. 

"Let me put it this way.” Bell spoke slowly and softly for emphasis. 
"There is evidence that has been obtained during the time you've been 
sitting in this room which a person just driving around Salt Lake City 
probably wouldn't have in his possession unless he was an Army ordnance- 
disposal person or he was a maker of bombs.” 

"Huh?” Jacobs looked genuinely shocked. Until now, he had never 
seriously contemplated the possibility that Mark might have actually 
committed the bombings. He hadn't let himself. 

"I mean, it's not like something everybody would have with him on any 
given Wednesday afternoon as they're driving around town.” 

"So there is evidence in the car?” 

"There's not only evidence there, there's evidence in a whole lot of 
other places.” Jacobs looked so devastated that Bell felt compelled to 
comfort him. "For fifteen years, I have dealt with these kinds of people, 
some of whom have gone crazy. Okay? So I’ve learned that it doesn't 
matter what they appear like on the outside.” Not to worry, he wanted 
to say, being fooled isn’t a crime. 

The next day, the 18th, Jacobs was back in the hot seat. Deputy 
Gaylord Dent, a sandy-haired young officer in the burglary division of the 
sheriff's office, had some more questions, most of them about the Church. 

Jacobs said that Hofmann had told him that the reason the LDS 
Church was willing to trade the Joseph Smith III blessing to the RLDS 
Church was, one, the news had already gotten out so there was no longer 
any point in hiding it, and, two, the LDS Church already had in its vault 
a similar blessing from the Prophet to his son. Mark also said that he had 
turned a whole slew of sensitive materials from the same source over to 
the Church, on the sly. 

Dent wanted to know the name of the person he gave them to. 

President Gordon Hinckley. "And Hinckley said, 'This will never see 
the light of day,' ” Jacobs told the startled Dent. "That is the first time 
I know of in which Mark mentioned that they had done a secret deal.” 

What else had Hofmann secretly sold to Hinckley? 

There was Martin Harris's copy of Ethan Smith's book, View of the 
Hebrews . "It's a fascinating book,” said Jacobs, giving an unprompted 
seminar in Church history. "The book basically provides the Book of 
Mormon story even though it was written years before the Book of Mor- 



TOTAL FAITH 279 

mon came out. . . . Anyway, nobody’s ever been able to prove that Joseph 
or Martin Harris or his wife or Oliver Cowdery, the four people who 
worked on the Book of Mormon manuscript, ever had a copy of that thing. 
And then Mark found Martin Harris’s. . . . Isn’t this just blowing you ou* 
of your mind?” 

It was, but in ways Jacobs couldn’t guess. Clearly, the Church had far 
more at stake in Hofmann’s business than anyone else. 

Jacobs continued his story: “Anyway, the point is, Mark showed it to 
Hinckley, and Hinckley said, ‘Oh, I want it right now. It’ll never see the 
light of day.’ That was another one I understood he stashed away and paid 
Mark a substantial sum for it.” 

Like the police, Jacobs saw the potential for blackmail and had even 
mentioned it to Hofmann. “I said, ‘Mark, all the stuff you’re acquiring, 
all this juicy stuff you sell to Hinckley. Have you kept a copy of everything 
as a kind of . . .’ ” He reached for the word. “ *. . . insurance for the 
future?’ ” 

Dent knew what he meant. 

“I said, ‘You’ve got to. You’re not that dumb.’ . . . And finally, one day, 
he said, ‘I’ve got some copies of what there needs to be copies of for the 
future.’ ” 

So, at any point — if he needed money, for example — Hofmann could 
have tried to blackmail Hinckley by threatening to release what he knew: 
not just the documents, but the fact that the Church had bought them 
and stashed them away. Suddenly, the Church’s strange determination to 
prevent Hofmann from talking to the police didn’t seem so strange. 

“Is [Mark] the kind of person that would consider President Hinckley, 
uh, two-faced?” asked Dent, trying to put it as delicately as possible. “So 
much so that it would finally grate on him?” 

“I think he was used to it . . . because we had talked about that. As 
he would tell me about one of these things that Hinckley was doing, I 
would look at him and say, ‘Well, it seems a little strange, doesn’t it?’ ” 

“Outlandish,” Dent corrected. 

“Well, no, I’m just saying, not necessarily from my point of view. 
Historically, people will justify things to say whatever they have to. I 
mean, they want to preserve the Church. If Hinckley wants to preserve 
the Church, he’s going to do everything he can to protect the Church.” 



280 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Farnsworth interviewed Shannon Flynn at 7:10 the eve- 
ning of the 18th. It was almost like a joke at first. Flynn 
treated it like just another exciting chapter in the continuing adventure 
of Shannon Flynn, secret agent. He seemed eager to match wits with 
his interrogators. 

It wasn’t long before the Church came up again — something that had 
happened so often in the first days of interviewing that the shock had 
worn off, or so Farnsworth thought. He was interested that Flynn thought 
Hofmann was under pressure at the end, the kind of pressure that might 
have led to violence. 

“How do you know that he’s been under pressure?” Farnsworth asked. 
“Do you have some direct evidence?” 

It was the Church, said Flynn, putting pressure on Hofmann to come 
up with the McLellin Collection. “Just, you know, from what he told me. 
He said, almost quoting, ‘You cannot believe how nervous President 
Hinckley is about this material, and how badly he wants it here.’ ” There 
it was again: Gordon Hinckley’s name. “And that’s the kind of pressure 
[Mark] doesn’t like,” Flynn added. “My understanding is that President 
Hinckley helped arrange the loan for him at First Interstate Bank. I wasn’t 
in the bank for that transaction, though afterwards I did see a copy of the 
loan agreement.” 

Farnsworth wanted to explore another possible motive. “Does Hof- 
mann have any problem reputation-wise in the document community?” 

“Absolutely not,” said Flynn. 

“So he wouldn’t be suspected of forging documents, or stealing docu- 
ments?” 

Flynn shook his head no. 

“Would stolen documents be a more likely thing if someone was deal- 
ing in the document trade than fraudulent ones?” 

Flynn thought for a moment. “Ummm, I’d say it was an even split. It’s 
difficult to steal material. It’s real difficult to steal material. But it’s even 
more difficult to forge it.” 

“It’s a big problem either way?” 

“Either way, it’s a mess.” 




TOTAL FAITH 281 



Farnsworth changed tack again. “What is your opinion of his inno- 
cence or guilt at this time, knowing what you know?” 

“I believe that he is innocent.” 

“Any particular reason?” 

“Based mainly on my association with him. I traveled a lot with him. 
When we went to New York, we would be twenty-four hours a day 
together. There were times I saw him every day of the week, practically. 
He’s just not that kind of person.” 

“Okay, would he have any reason that you know of to cause harm to 
the Sheets family or the Christensens?” 

“Absolutely none. I don’t think he even knew Gary Sheets.” 

As usual, the discussion of motive came to a dead stop over Gary Sheets. 
There was still nothing to tie Hofmann to the Sheets murder. It was 
quickly turning into one of the imponderables of the case. Farnsworth had 
learned that every case had one or two. 

He turned to the bombs. Did Hofmann ever show any interest in 
explosives? Farnsworth asked. 

Flynn said no, then added, nonchalantly, “At gun shows, it’s possible, 
you know, to pick up a fuse or this or that. In my estimation, that would 
have been an excellent opportunity to do it, and there was never anything 
like that.” 

Farnsworth’s eyes lit up. Gun shows? 

Flynn realized immediately that he had spilled something — a gaffe 
unbefitting a secret agent — and tried to backtrack. “When we would go 
to gun shows, he would almost never buy any guns. . . .” But he only dug 
himself deeper. Farnsworth was thinking: Hofmann went to gun shows 
and bought guns? This chubby, nebbishy documents dealer was a gun 
freak? 

Then came another surprise. “I know we were both interested in things 
that had to do with surveillance. I know that he thought his phones were 
tapped.” 

That raised everyone’s eyebrows. 

“He had constant phone difficulty. They’d break, or sometimes they’d 
pick up a phone and they could hear somebody talking and then all of a 
sudden there would be a click, and things like that. So one time, when 
we were in New York, we went to a company that sells all kinds of 
defensive and offensive surveillance devices. We got the catalog.” 

Gun shows and surveillance devices. What next? thought Farnsworth. 
Flynn obviously reveled in the feeling of power these little revelations gave 
him. Being interrogated was fun. 



282 THE MORMON MURDERS 



But not for long. After a few questions about Hofmann and Steve 
Christensen, Farnsworth decided it was time to show this baby-faced 
James Bond that the game was deadly serious. He began by setting Flynn 
up. “We have already gone over the area — that neither you, nor, so far 
as you have any knowledge, Mark, ever acquired any items that you could 
make a bomb with?” 

“No,” said Flynn. 

“Have you ever bought any directions that would help you make a 
bomb?” 

“Not that I recall.” Flynn was beginning to catch on, but it was too 
late. 

“Okay, I think you’re a liar.” The other detective present, Mike Fierro, 
produced a copy of The Anarchist’s Cookbook. “Have you ever seen this 
book?” he demanded. 

“Uh, huh,” said Flynn, his face turning red. 

“When?” 

“Oh, about a month ago.” 

“What is that book about?” 

“A variety of subjects, 1 mean, you know. . . .” 

“Does it include a large section involving how to make bombs?" 
“Uh, huh.” His face turned even redder, impossibly red. 

“When I was questioning you, didn’t you think of this document?” 
“1 didn’t remember it.” 

“And yet this bombing incident is such a major thing in the community 
and you’re tied very closely to a man who is accused of being a bomber?” 
“Uh, huh.” 

“We sit here for the purposes of inquiring from you all of the knowl- 
edge that we can, and you casually forget that you in fact have bought 
a book in the last few weeks which described in large part how to make 
bombs?” 

“Uh, huh.” 

“I find that a very convenient loss of memory. Can you explain it?” 
“Well ” 

“You’re not a dumb person, I gather?” 

Flynn was distraught. “Obviously you have gone in and searched my 
house without my knowledge.” 

“How’s that?” 

Flynn had fallen into the trap. “Well, I haven’t been to the house in 
two days.” 

“So why do you think the police have been in your house?” 



TOTAL FAITH 283 



“Well, 1 don't know how else that would come out of there.” In fact, 
the police hadn’t been to Flynn’s house. All they had was a tip that he 
had bought a copy of the book. Now they had confirmation. 

“This is not your book,” said Farnsworth. “This is a book like one that 
you bought.” He smiled broadly. “Does that make you feel better?” 
“Well, not really,” said Flynn, furious with himself for being tricked. 
“Would you like to back up and start over a little bit?” 

“Well, I don’t know what to tell you.” 

“This is a very good time for you to get the record straight about 
where you fit in with this bombing business. We know Mark Hofmann 
is the bomber. Maybe one of several people have knowledge about this, 
maybe helped participate in it, maybe helped deliver bombs. The fact 
is, were going to know. . . . And if we acquire any knowledge of your 
participation, we’re talking death penalty for everybody who is involved 
in this.” 

If Flynn ever thought being interrogated by the police was a big 
adventure, another episode in the Walter Mitty life of Shannon Flynn, 
secret agent and ace documents sleuth, those delusions ended right there 
and then. Farnsworth could see it on his face. The cockiness disappeared, 
and the fear set in. 

And everything else spilled out. He told them about buying two blast- 
ing caps for Hofmann eight months earlier. He had been on an ice-fishing 
trip near Richfield, Utah, and stopped at a friend’s and bought the 
caps — farmers in the area used them all the time to blow up stumps. He 
tried to convince them that they were just a spur-of-the-moment gift, one 
pal to another, but Farnsworth didn’t buy it. 

Then he told them about the Uzi submachine gun in the storage shed. 
The Uzi submachine gun ! Bob Swehla, who was representing the ATF 
at the interrogation, couldn’t believe his ears. 

Farnsworth thought, first, blasting caps. Now, a submachine gun. 
These guys had a goddam arsenal 

“It belongs to Mark Hofmann,” Flynn hastened to add. “The reason 
I’m telling you is that I’m trying to tell you anything I can possibly tell 
you right now before it all comes back and bites me in the ass later.” 
“Yes,” said Swehla, still reeling, “I’ll congratulate you for this particular 
statement. . . . Can you go into that some more?” 

“Sure. I bought that for Mark. We then bought the components to 
convert it to an automatic.” 

“I take it you’re fully aware that that’s illegal?” 

“You know, it’s not the kind of information that I would normally 



284 THE MORMON MURDERS 



volunteer. I’m not trying to get myself thrown in jail over some firearm 
violation. But, you know, I don’t want to come back here tomorrow and 
then have you guys kicking the shit out of me, saying, ‘We found this 
machine gun at your house.’ ” 

“What was the purpose of having a fully automatic machine gun?” 

“Just the fascination of having an automatic weapon.” 

“Have either of you shot it?” 

“Yeah.” 

“How long ago?” 

“Oh, probably the last time we shot it was maybe two weeks ago.” 

Actually, the revelation of the Uzi presented Swehla and Farnsworth 
with a dilemma. Flynn had just confessed to commiting a federal crime 
punishable by ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine. To protect that 
confession, Swehla would have to read Flynn his Miranda rights before 
going on. But reading him his rights might give him cold feet about 
everything else and bring the whole interview to a halt. Whatever Flynn 
knew about the bombings and Hofmann, whatever he hadn 't told, might 
disappear forever behind the Miranda curtain. 

Swehla passed a note to alert Farnsworth — “I’m at the point of 
Miranda” — and they left the room to talk about it. “Go as far as you can 
with him regarding what we’re talking to him about,” Swehla said. “Be- 
cause once I go back in there and give him the Miranda warning, he may 
clam up about everything, not just about the gun.” 

Farnsworth decided to use the time to have one more go at Flynn, to 
wring him out one last time, just to make sure he wasn’t holding anything 
back. 

He began slowly, like a preacher working a guilty congregation. 

“Don’t you see, Shannon, that if you had come in originally and said, 
‘This may not be important, but it’s probably very critical — I gave him 
some blasting caps,’ that that would have established your credibility as 
a candid, honest person?” 

“Exactly. And I should have done it. I should have done it. I shouldn’t 
have held that back, because now, man, my dick’s in the wringer, and I 
don’t know how in the hell I’m going to get it out. You know, if I could 
give you more information, God, I’d tell you in a second.” 

“You can't get yourself out.” Farnsworth was giving no quarter. 

“Well, probably not now,” said Flynn, hopelessly. 

“You’re so deep into this, you don’t know which way to turn right now. 
You’re sitting here. You’re talking to us. We’re not being mean to you, 
and you know we’re sitting here with a ton of information and you don’t 



TOTAL FAITH 285 

know what we know, and you’d love to know what we know so that you 
could work around it.” 

“Well, can I interrupt you?” 

“You can ’t interrupt me.” 

“Okay, I’m sorry.” 

“You can’t interrupt me right now. That’s one thing you can ’t do right 
now. You’re sitting here thinking, my life as a paper antiquities expert, 
my church life, my family life, my parents, you’re adding all that up and 
saying to yourself, ‘I don’t know how to respond to this thing. I can’t sit 
here and tell these people what I know to be true, I can’t sit here and tell 
them what 1 have participated in, because all of these things are on the 
line 

Farnsworth stalked the room. “I’m not the kind of guy who likes to lean 
on the wrong person. But you have put yourself in the fix you’re in with 
us. You lost your credibility an hour ago.” 

“Yeah.” By now, Flynn was a beaten man. 

“If anybody listened to the tape of this interview — including yourself, 
in a while — you’d say, ‘Holy Toledo! Am I that bad? I mean, can’t I 
present something better than that to protect myself? Did I underesti- 
mate these people and their ability to dig up information?’ ” Farnsworth 
let that sink in, then said, gravely, “I think you’re in this up to your 
eyeballs — up to your eyeballs. ...” 

Another long pause. Flynn’s shirt was soaking wet. 

“I don’t know how religious you are. I don’t know how much of a 
believer you are. But if you are a believer, then somebody else is watching 
who is bigger than you are, and who already knows everything you’ve 
done, and everything you know. You may hide it from him,” Farnsworth 
said, pointing to the other detective, “and you may hide it from me, but 
you ain’t hiding it from some superior being.” He pointed toward the 
ceiling in case Flynn missed the point. “So it’s only a game for a while, 
if you choose to be honest and truthful. But later on, it’s serious business.” 
If Flynn believed in the Celestial Kingdom, his personal parcel of real 
estate in the world-to-come was in serious jeopardy. “Two people are dead, 
two very nice people as far as I can tell. I haven't heard a bad word said 
about either of the people that are dead.” 

“No,” Flynn agreed meekly. 

“It's a major tragedy for them. It’s a major tragedy for their families. 
It’s a tragedy for the entire community — and you are part of this tragedy. ” 
This was the moment. The moment in any interview when, if the 
questioner has done his job, everything is working for him: vulnerability. 



286 THE MORMON MURDERS 



self-loathing, fear, all the forces that produce a confession. Not a grudging 
confession, not a word-by-word, question-and-answer confession, but a 
willing confession — hell, an eager confession, a confession that pours out 
like vomit from a drunk. 

But Flynn just sat there, sweating and quivering and praying for it to 
be over. Farnsworth was sure. This well was dry. 

Bob Swehla returned and read Flynn his rights. 

“If you decide to answer questions now without a lawyer present, you 
will still have the right to stop the questioning at any time. You also have 
the right to stop the questioning at any time until you talk to a lawyer/' 

“Uh, huh." 

Swehla had a few more questions about the Uzi. He wanted to know 
why, if it was Hofmann's, Flynn kept it at his house. 

“Oh, probably the biggest reason," said Flynn, “is that Mark's wife 
hated it, when it was there in its semiauto form. She saw it and told him 
that it was really stinky and he ought to get rid of it. So he just preferred 
to keep it at my house." 

Farnsworth asked what exactly he and Hofmann intended to use the 
Uzi for . 

“We just go out and target-shoot with it." 

“It's for fun?” Farnsworth exclaimed with an astonishment that had 
to have been disingenuous. He himself had spent hundreds of hours 
shooting pistols for fun. But a machine gun? 

“Yeah." 

“Shooting a fully automatic weapon ?" 

“Well, ya know, it's kind of like sex. You hear about it long enough, 
you want to do it." 

Detective Fierro had one more question. He had heard that Hofmann 
was an atheist and wondered if Flynn knew anything about “the transition 
that probably took place with Mark" and resulted in his break with the 
Church. 

Flynn seized the question gleefully, like a man coming out of a mine- 
field and lighting on safe ground. “Oh, I don't know much about the 
transition. As long as I have known him, that essentially has been his 
philosophy. A Church authority once said the study of religious history 
is the quickest way to destroy religious faith. You just can't deal in this 
stuff very long before you start to see inaccuracies, duplicities, errors in 
any religion. There hasn't been one founded that hasn't been screwed up 
somehow." 



TOTAL FAITH 287 



“From what you said earlier, about talking to people in your ward, and 
stuff, 1 was getting the impression that you were active in the faith/' 
Fierro said. 

‘Tin very active. 1 like to be active. I want to be a member of the 
Church. I’m not dumb, though. I know what goes on. When I talked to 
the General Authorities on Thursday morning, it didn’t take long to get 
the scoop. Ya know, they weren’t about to tell me anything. And what 
I had to tell them, they couldn’t do anything about, so they just said, Tell 
the truth and do your best and see ya later.’ ” 

“Shove it under the carpet, in others words,” Farnsworth interpreted. 
“Well, I realize now, man, they are doing some heavy moving over 
there — real heavy moving. And they weren’t about to let me get in the 
way. I am such a small fish in the pond.” 

“What do you think their goal is right now?” Farnsworth asked. 
“The same as it has always been — the maintenance of the Church. To 
have the Church continue.” 

It was one the next morning by the time they were finished. But Flynn 
had one last surprise for them. As they were booking him on the unlawful- 
firearms charge, they found a Philippine butterfly knife in his pocket. 
Secret agent, Uzi-owner, Shannon Flynn had been carrying this lethal 
piece of hardware throughout the interview. 

Ken Farnsworth wondered, not for the first time, what the world was 
coming to, when a Pillsbury Doughboy like Shannon Flynn packs a jungle 
knife on the streets of Salt Lake City. It was getting so you couldn’t tell 
the bad guys from the good guys anymore. 



A search of Flynn’s house at 7:30 the next morning turned 
up a lot more than just an Uzi in the washbasin. Scattered 
among the well-thumbed copies of Soldier of Fortune were a .357 Mag- 
num revolver and a Mini-14 Ruger rifle with a black nylon stock, plus 
reloading hardware and enough ammo to start a respectable revolution. 
Plus combat gear. 

Next to the hardware, Flynn’s copy of Charles Hamilton’s Great Forg- 
ers and Famous Fakes looked harmless enough. 




288 THE MORMON MURDERS 

The next morning, Farnsworth and David Biggs from the county attor- 
ney’s office drove to Richfield, where Flynn said he had bought the 
blasting caps. It was the opening day of the deer hunt, and everyone was 
out with rifle in hand, a sight that put Shannon Flynn’s peculiarities in 
perspective. 

The night before, thousands of men had gone out and gotten crocked. 
This morning, at the crack of dawn, they were out, guns in hand, shooting 
deer, and, if this year was like past years, at least a couple of their fellow 
hunters. Just the previous year, a hunter had claimed he thought he was 
shooting at a deer when he downed a horse and rider. So many cows, sheep 
and house pets were killed each season that one exasperated farmer had 
been reduced to painting the words cow and sheep in big letters on the 
sides of his animals to help hunters recognize them. 

Despite the deadly carnival, Farnsworth and Biggs located the man 
who had sold Flynn the caps. He remembered the transaction, but, 
according to him, Flynn knew exactly why he was buying them. “I need 
these blasting caps for this guy I know,” he remembered Flynn saying. 
“He likes to blow things up.” 

Meanwhile, Jim Bell led a phalanx of cops through Hofmann’s house for 
the second time in two days. They came looking for the McLellin Collec- 
tion. Interviews with Jacobs, Flynn, and others, as well as the contents 
of Hofmann’s car, had made it clear that documents, in one form or 
another, were at the heart of the case. This time, the warrant allowed 
them to take “documents, papers, pictures that relate to the Martin Harris 
letter, McLellin letters, diaries or any other antique or ancient documents 
relating to Mormon history. Also any other diaries of ancient or antique 
nature along with any devices, tools or machines for the alteration or 
production of documents.” 

In the southeast basement bedroom, Bell found a box filled with docu- 
ments on Mormon history and religion, as well as books and some infor- 
mation on the care and preservation of paper. Sitting on top of the box 
was an envelope with the name facing up. The name was Mike Hansen. 

At ten that night, back at the department, while Chief Willoughby 
conducted yet another news conference in the next room, Jerry Taylor was 
drawing a picture for Jim Bell. 

It was a picture of a bomb. The basic device was diabolically simple: 
a length of pipe nipple (a piece of pipe threaded at both ends) filled with 
smokeless powder, two battery packs (four C-size batteries apiece) pur- 
chased at Radio Shack, and a mercury switch. Taylor explained how the 



TOTAL FAITH 289 



bomber had screwed metal end caps on both ends of the pipe, drilled a 
hole in one of the end caps, inserted a rocket igniter, then led wires from 
the igniter to the mercury switch and from the mercury switch to the two 
battery packs to create a simple circuit. When the victim tilted the bomb, 
the globule of mercury moved to the other end of the switch, completing 
the circuit and sparking the igniter, which in turn ignited the powder, and 
boom. 

The bombs had been placed in cardboard boxes approximately six by 
twelve by twelve inches. (Taylor had recovered one of the pieces of 
cardboard from the site.) There were some differences between the 
three devices. The Christensen bomb was the only one that had been 
packed with nails. There wasn’t as much powder in the other two 
bombs. And the pipes used were slightly different in size. But these 
were distinctions without a difference, Taylor emphasized. From over 
sixty similar investigations, he could say without any reservations — 
which was the way he said everything — that the three bombs were es- 
sentially identical, meaning that they were dealing with a single bomber. 
Also, the person who made the bombs was the person who set them. If 
two different people had been involved, there would have been some 
safety mechanisms. There weren’t. 

In Taylor’s judgment, Mark Hofmann manufactured and set all three 
bombs. 

On the basis of Taylor’s description, a local ATF agent, Ray Dalling, 
built a replica of the bomb. Then Bell borrowed a Toyota MR2 from a 
local Toyota dealership and drove to the exact spot on North Main where 
the third bomb had gone off. As Taylor had suspected, the bomb wouldn’t 
sit on the console, the gearshift got in the way. That meant that Hofmann 
had to arm it while it was still in the back area, behind the seats — an 
awkward operation at best. 

It was in bringing the bomb package forward between the seats and 
turning to get out of the car that he must have dropped it. That explained 
why his right hand, with which he must have reached for the package, 
had the fingertips blown off, while the left hand, which may have been 
reaching to open the door, was virtually unscathed. He had been holding 
it with his right hand when it slipped, and Bang! With a mercury switch, 
it took only milliseconds for ignition, according to Taylor. It had been 
practically instantaneous. 

A few days later, around midnight, as Bell and Farnsworth slowly made 
their way through Hofmann’s papers in the third-floor evidence room, 
they found a check made out to Radio Shack. 



290 THE MORMON MURDERS 



* * * 

On October 19, Sergeant Sid Elliott of the sheriff's office in Cottonwood 
filed a report that included an interview with a young neighbor of Kathy 
Sheets's who had seen a suspicious van cruising the driveway in front of 
the Sheets house the night before the bombing. A few days later, Elliott's 
report arrived on Jim Bell’s desk, together with a note that Mark Hof- 
mann owned a van of similar description. 

The neighbor turned out to be Aaron Teplick, a thirteen-year-old boy 
who lived not just near the Sheetses, but right next door, on the same tiny 
cul-de-sac off Naniloa Drive. Like most cops, Bell was skeptical of child 
witnesses — not because they weren't observant but because they were 
notoriously vulnerable in court. But he had Teplick brought to the Hall 
of Justice for an interview anyway, just in case. 

It was a setting as intimidating as any courtroom. Teplick's parents 
didn’t accompany him. The only other people in the room were five 
officers: Sid Elliott, the sheriff's deputy who had interviewed him first; 
Bob Swehla and Jerry Miller from ATF; Jim Bell; and Ken Farnsworth. 
But Teplick proved a trouper. In a calm, sure voice, he repeated his story 
that he had seen a strange van drive through the cul-de-sac the night 
before the bombing. 

“I felt ill that night. It was really late. I woke up and was just getting 
up to get an aspirin and then I saw that Toyota van come down our 
street." 

“What time was this, do you remember?" 

“It was about 11:30 or twelve." 

“How do you remember that?" 

“ 'Cause there's a clock in our kitchen and I looked." If only their adult 
witnesses were this observant, thought Bell. 

“Okay, you went to the kitchen and got an aspirin and then you looked 
out the kitchen window?" 

“It was our hall window. I just heard a car down there and just wanted 
to see who it was. . . . We have a little private driveway with three houses 
down there." 

“Okay, describe what you saw, Aaron." 

“Well, first I saw a light come down our driveway and then it kind of 
pulled in front of our house, and I looked out and it was just a gold Toyota 
Wonder Wagon. It was there for a couple of minutes. . . . Then it turned 
in the Bridges’ driveway, which is the other next-door neighbors, and went 
back up our hill." 



lUTAL FAITH 29 1 



“You mention a Toyota. How do you know that it was a Toyota?” 

“Well, that particular car is a pretty obvious car — it was one of those 
new kinds of vans.” And then Teplick proceeded to give the cops a 
complete lesson on recent changes in automotive design. The kid knew 
what he was talking about. 

They had him draw a picture of the van as he described it. Then they 
showed him a series of Polaroids of various similar vans, including Hof- 
mann’s. 

He pointed out what was wrong with each of the photos until he landed 
on Mark’s. “That’s it,” he said — very calm, very decisive. 

Farnsworth called it a “class act” (his highest accolade) and after it was 
over, Bell joked, “You’d think he was raised in L.A.” 



But it wasn’t enough. 

On Tuesday, October 29, two weeks after the bomb- 
ings, the hospital announced that Mark Hofmann would be released the 
following Thursday. And still no charges had been filed: not for the 
murders, not for the bombings, not for fraud, not even for the traffic ticket 
the computer had spit out the moment he became a suspect. 

At 2:30 that afternoon, Bell and Farnsworth and the other investigators 
met with the county attorney, Ted Cannon, and the U.S. attorney, Brent 
Ward, in a last-ditch effort to persuade them to file charges — some 
charges, any charges — to prevent Hofmann from walking out of the 
hospital a free man. 

One face conspicuously missing from the meeting was Sheriff Pete 
Hayward’s. He had already dismissed the Hofmann case, not because he 
believed Hofmann wasn’t guilty, but because, in Sheriff Hayward’s mind, 
the case was already wrapped up. Hayward, an amiable bulldog of a man, 
didn’t believe in all this scientific investigation crapola. His heart (as well 
as his crime-solving technique) was still firmly rooted in the nineteenth 
century, when Utah was the Wild West and Wyatt Earp was marshal. 
His idea of solving a crime was jumping in his car, turning on the siren, 
racing to the scene, and collaring the bad guy. His idea of investigation 
was driving around and looking for anything suspicious. As for interviews, 
he could look a man in the eye and tell if he was lying. 




292 THE MORMON MURDERS 



His tactics gave bleeding-heart liberals heart failure, but the people 
loved him. He was the kind of cop they liked to watch on TV — no boring 
details, no drudgery, no paperwork, just action. In fact, they had watched 
him on TV, on the 5 o’clock news, confronting a crazed gunman in a 
7-Eleven store, all alone, unarmed. The television cameras had recorded 
every thrilling moment as Hayward, steady as a rock, waited for his 
opening, and, when the man’s look was averted, grabbed the shotgun from 
his hand. The sheer bravery of it was awesome. This was how lawmen were 
supposed to do their job. 

And remarkably often, it worked. 

Unfortunately, his department operated by the same seat-of-the-pants 
rules. While Jim Bell was mapping out the Christensen bomb site and 
collecting bits of evidence on his knees with a pair of tweezers, Sheriff 
Hayward’s deputies were blowing through the Sheets crime scene like a 
twister, throwing everything they could find into a big green garbage bag. 
No grids, no diagrams, no tweezers, no magnifying glasses. As a result, the 
sheriff’s men had missed several key pieces of evidence, including major 
bomb parts at the Sheets house. (The ATF’s Jerry Taylor found them on 
a follow-up search days later.) 

In the weeks following, interviews with important witnesses were mis- 
handled and then, even worse, mislaid. When Bell called to get them, he 
was told they didn’t exist. “But we have witnesses who said they were 
interviewed by the sheriff’s department,” he insisted. “They must have 
been talking to reporters,” cracked one of the sheriff’s shoot-from-the-hip 
deputies. 

One day, weeks after the bombings, Jerry Thompson of the sheriff’s 
office appeared on the eighth floor of the Hall of Justice and handed Bell 
a file. “Here is something we found pushed back behind a file cabinet,” 
he said. “Do you want them?” They were the missing interviews, along 
with the evidence of Hofmann’s travel schedule. Not only had the police 
been forced to reinterview the same witnesses — a considerable embarrass- 
ment — but the chain of custody on the travel evidence had been broken. 
Bell knew that a good defense attorney could “blow them out of the 
water” if he found out about the foul-up. 

But none of that seemed to make any difference to Sheriff Pete Hay- 
ward. His business was solving crimes — let the lawyers worry about the 
technicalities. 

Needless to say, that attitude had earned Hayward a number of enemies 
among the prosecutors of Salt Lake County, but none so virulent or 
implacable as the head prosecutor, County Attorney Ted Cannon. It was 



TOTAL FAITH 293 



an enmity that went far beyond political differences (Hayward was a 
Democrat, Cannon a Republican) or working styles. The two men just 
plain didn’t like each other. Despite having to work together on hundreds 
of cases a year, they weren’t even on speaking terms. When absolutely 
necessary, they communicated through intermediaries: one man’s deputy 
would speak to the other man’s deputy. 

So when Cannon said he needed more evidence from the sheriff’s office 
to indict Hofmann on the Sheets murder, Hayward ostentatiously washed 
his hands of the whole matter. As far as he was concerned, the case was 
over. His office had done its job by fingering Hofmann. If the county 
attorney’s office was too obstinate or obtuse to file charges, that was their 
problem. He wasn’t about to waste any more of his men’s time or the 
taxpayers’ money just to make Ted Cannon’s job a little easier. And that’s 
exactly what he told the press. 

So the meeting on the 29th went on without Sheriff Hayward. 

Jim Bell began with an impassioned plea. “We’ve got to arrest the guy. 
We can’t just let him go home. It was a double murder. He shouldn’t be 
going home; he should be going to jail. He doesn’t deserve any free time, 
even if he is injured.” 

Ted Cannon, for one, wasn’t convinced. He didn’t want to charge the 
Christensen murder without charging the Sheets murder — and he 
couldn’t charge the Sheets murder because the sheriff’s office hadn’t done 
its job. It wasn’t clear if Cannon was more interested in scoring points 
against his nemesis Hayward or in arresting Mark Hofmann. As an elected 
official himself, Cannon also knew that if he indicted on Christensen and 
not on Sheets, the press would rally to the cause of Kathy Sheets. Cannon 
put the best face he could on an impossible situation. “If we did arrest 
him,” he told Bell, “his lawyers would come right over and get him out.” 

So Hayward was out and Cannon was out. 

That left Brent Ward, U.S. attorney. Would he file on the federal 
bomb charges? All eyes turned to the young man in the bow tie at the 
end of the table. 



294 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Bell and Farnsworth weren’t hopeful. They remembered 
how much trouble Ward had given them when they tried to 
get a warrant to search Shannon Flynn’s house. Right after the Flynn 
interview, Farnsworth had called Bruce Lubeck, Ward’s assistant on the 
case. Because the Uzi possession was a federal violation, they needed the 
U.S. Attorney’s Office to sign off on it. 

Lubeck told them to call Brent Ward. Right then, Farnsworth knew 
something was wrong. Why would the top man take such a personal 
interest in the details of the case? 

Then Ward wouldn’t give them an answer. He told them to stay off 
Lubeck’s line for at least fifteen minutes while he discussed the case 
with him. Fifteen minutes later, Lubeck’s line was still busy. Farns- 
worth wondered what the hell could be taking so long. This was a sim- 
ple, straightforward warrant based not on a tip but on a confession. 
Something was up. 

When they finally talked to Lubeck again, another surprise: “I think 
you ought to try to arrange a consent search.” That meant going back to 
Flynn and getting him to say, “Okay, you can search my house.” This at 
the very same time they were arresting him and putting him in jail. 
Farnsworth was mystified. Why were they resisting a warrant? Surely they 
knew it was, in fact, better to get a formal warrant than to rely on a 
consent search that might later be challenged in court. (“My client was 
in the jailhouse, intimidated by police officers, placed under arrest, and 
under extreme duress, Your Honor. His consent wasn’t voluntary!”) What 
was Ward afraid of? 

Farnsworth decided to think about it later. Right then, he wanted the 
warrant. “That’s stupid,” he told Lubeck. “Let’s get the warrant. That 
way there will be a legal stamp on this thing, and that way we won’t lose 
the evidence.” 

But Lubeck still resisted. He — and Ward, obviously — still wanted a 
consent search. Farnsworth finally pushed him into it, and at four in the 
morning, he went down to the police station and filled out the necessary 
paperwork. But the episode left a lot of unanswered questions in Ken 
Farnsworth’s mind. 




\ 4 %^4X^4%T43gr4!)^ > , 



^^CXADGrjSfrjQ&^F^tFjDGr^GrjS 



THE OATH OF A FREEMAN, 

I «A^» being (by Gods providence) an Inhabitant, 
and Freeman, within the iurifdi&io of this 
Common wealth, doe freely acknowledge my 
felfe to bee fubjeft to the govemement thereof) 
and therefore doc hcere fweare, by the great 
tc dreadfull name of the Evcrliving-God, that 
I will be true Sc faithfuU to the fame. 8c will 
accordingly yield afliftance 8c fupport tnerunto, 
with my perfon & eftatc , as in equity I am bo- 
und: and will alio truely indeavour to maintaine 
and preferve all the libcrtyes & privileges there- 
of, fubmitting my fclfc to the wholefome Iayves, 
& ordres made & flabliftied by the- fame; and fu- 
rther, that I vvill not plot, nor pra&ice any evil! 
againft it, nor confent to any that (hall foe do, 
butt will timely difeover, 8c reveall the fame to 
lawcfull authoritee nowe here ftablifhed, for the 
fpccdic preventing thereof. Moreover, I doe 
lolemnly binde my felfe, in the fight of God, 
that when I fhalbe called, to give my voyce 
touching any fuch matter of this Rate, ( in wh. 
ich freemen are to dcalc ) I vvill give my vote 
& fufFrage as I (hall judge in myne owne con- 
science may belt conduce 8 c tend to the publidc 
wealc of the body, without rcfpe£ of perfonn- 
es, or favour of any man. Soc help mee God in 
the Lord Iefus Chrift. 



vj J4 9 A>b # AA)* Aib 1 



“Oath of a Freeman.” It was nothing less than 
the first document printed in America. 








Hofmann with Shannon Flynn. They saw 
themselves as secret agents, jetting around 
the country making high-stakes deals and 
shooting their Uzi on weekends. 





Forensic document examiners George 
Throckmorton (left) and William Flynn. 
Their discovery of the cracked ink cracked the 
case. 



Hofmanns lawyers Ronald Yengich (left) and 
Bradley Rich. Yengich knew that the Hofmann 
case would he fought in the court of public 
opinion. 








Prosecutor Gerry D’Elia (top left). Cynical 
and street smart , he was a child of the sixties , 
always humming a Beatles or a Stones tune. 

Prosecutor Robert Stott (top right). Bob Stott 
had an impressive record , and no one was 
more impressed with it than Bob Stott. 

Prosecutors (left to right) Gerry D'Elia, Ted 
Cannon, Robert Stott, Bud Ellctt, and David 
Biggs. Before they could fight the Hofmann 
case, they had to stop fighting among them- 
selves. 





Ron Yengich gesturing in the preliminary 
hearing, with Brad Rich seated to his right 
and Gcrrv D’Elia looking on. Yengich was a 
short, fiery man with a Yosemite Sam mus- 
tache and an unScratchable itch for confron- 
tation. 




i 





Hofmann at the entrance to Point of the 
Mountain prison. He got the same sentence as 
an unarmed nineteen-year-old who robbed a 
Der Wienerschnitzel and stole a car. 






TOTAL FAITH 295 



# * * 

If Pete Hayward was the frontier sheriff, Brent Ward was the yuppie 
lawyer. With his red suspenders, bow tie, and hom-rimmed glasses, he 
could have been the rising star of some big corporate law firm on the fast 
track to the top. Which is exactly what he was before December 1981, 
when Orrin Hatch, Utah senator and Mormon elder, picked him, at the 
age of thirty-six, for the U.S. attorney’s job. 

They may have come from different centuries, but Sheriff Hayward 
and Brent Ward had one thing in common: political instincts. At the 
very least, Ward was in line for a federal judgeship if he chose that 
direction. At his age, that would put him in the running, if Senator 
Hatch’s conservative star continued to rise, for an appeals court, or 
even, some day, the Supreme Court. It was no secret that one of the 
Church’s most fervent wishes was to seat a Mormon justice on the na- 
tion’s highest court. 

That was the other bottom-line feature of Brent Ward: the Church. 
More than just a devout Mormon, Ward was an ambitious one. Of course, 
in Utah, political ambition and religious ambition were always closely 
allied. It was difficult to rise to prominent public oEce without the 
Chmch’s backing. It was virtually impossible to do so against the Church’s 
opposition. That was a fact of life in Utah that any good politician 
understood, and Brent Ward was a very good politician. 

In his four years as U.S. attorney, Ward had concentrated his activities 
on popular causes like pornography and child abuse — causes, not coinci- 
dentally, that the Church cared about. When the Hofmann story began 
to break, more than a few people wondered how the ambitious young U.S. 
attorney would handle himself in a case that the Church wanted to avoid 
at all costs. 

Like Farnsworth, they soon found out. 

Ward’s first action was to help arrange to have a key piece of evidence 
shipped out of state. By the time the police department knew enough to 
ask the Church for the so-called Salamander Letter, it was already gone — 
off to the FBI’s laboratories in Washington, D.C., for a long and very 
confidential analysis. When the county attorney’s oEce requested other 
Hofmann documents, the Church refused to hand them over. Why would 
they push one sensitive document into the FBI’s hands almost immedi- 
ately after the bombing and fight to keep other documents out of police 
hands for weeks? Church spokesmen said they didn’t trust local law 
enforcement. 



296 THE MORMON MURDERS 



But they could trust the heavily Mormon FBI, which worked hand-in- 
glove with Brent Ward. 

It was Ward's FBI agents who had swooped down on all the major 
figures in the case in the first few days and taken statements. By the third 
day, however, as soon as it became clear that the Church was involved 
somehow, the FBI stopped sharing its information. Its agents wouldn't 
give local police the names of the people they had interviewed. Bell's 
detectives would arrive only to be told by a beleaguered witness, “What 
are you doing here? The FBI was here yesterday, asking the same ques- 
tions. Don't you people talk to each other? Aren't you all law enforce- 
ment?” By the end of the first week, some detectives themselves were 
beginning to wonder. 

The police asked if they could go along on FBI interviews. The FBI 
refused. The police asked to see the FBI interviews, a courtesy routinely 
extended to local law enforcement agencies on a confidential basis. The 
FBI refused. 

At one point, Farnsworth, Bell, and others from the police department 
and the county attorney's office were invited to Ward's office. The pur- 
pose of the meeting, according to Ward, was to “share information.” At 
last, thought Farnsworth, they're going to let us see what they've got. But 
it turned out that by “sharing information,” Ward meant that the local 
agents should share their information with the federal agents, not the 
other way around. 

The police weren't the only ones who began to wonder whom exactly 
Brent Ward was collecting this information for. Confidential FBI files 
were known to have wound up on certain desks in the Church Office 
Building. Was Ward running a damage-control operation for the Church, 
sending FBI men out ahead of local police to find out just what the 
Church's exposure was? 

That might explain his bizarre insistence on getting a statement from 
Hofmann. At a meeting on the afternoon of October 24, Ward’s assistant, 
Bruce Lubeck, demanded a “statement from Hofmann for the files.” Bell 
and Farnsworth and Gerry D'Elia couldn’t believe it. They were in the 
middle of a furious legal battle to compel Nurse Loden to reveal what she 
had heard in Hofmann’s hospital room, and Ward thought that Yengich 
was going to let Hofmann talk to the cops directly? After the meeting, 
Bell turned to Farnsworth in disgust. “That’s typical. If you don’t go down 
and talk to the suspect so he can tell you to get screwed, they don't feel 
you've done a complete investigation.” Obviously, Ward was reaching — 
stretching — for excuses not to act. 



TOTAL FAITH 297 



One thing was obvious from the moment the Church got involved in 
the case: Brent Ward had no intention of prosecuting anybody for any- 
thing related to the bombings. Hofmann was indicted along with Shan- 
non Flynn for possession of the altered Uzi, but a judge quickly set aside 
that charge pending the outcome of the state’s case. Only a few days after 
the bombings, ATF agents presented their evidence to Ward. They felt 
confident they had a federal case against Hofmann, at least for possession 
of a destructive device, a felony that carried a sentence of ten years in 
prison. They had the physical evidence, they had the letter jacket, they 
had the witnesses at the Judge Building. Hell, they had more than they 
had in most possession cases. 

But Brent Ward wouldn’t touch it. 

And the ATF men thought they knew why. “There was too much at 
stake,” one of them said later. “His political career was at stake. Whether 
he wanted to secure his political base in Utah or to further strengthen his 
bond with Mormon Senator Hatch — either way, it would not be helpful 
to put himself in a position where he had to subpoena Gordon B. Hinckley 
and the other Church officials, or to expose the Church’s transactions with 
Mark Hofmann to the full light of day.” 

If the Church didn’t want the truth out, then neither, it appeared, did 
Brent Ward. If the Church didn’t want this case in the headlines, didn’t 
want to get itself involved in the legal process, who was Brent Ward to 
put it there? As for his sworn duty to uphold the law, well, there were laws 
and there were laws. As one investigator on the case saw it: “Brent Ward’s 
got motives above and beyond the law. Do you think a good Mormon in 
the U.S. Attorney’s Office is going to hesitate for one minute deciding 
to do what’s correct for the law or what’s best for the Church? This guy 
was on his way to being a god. Next to that, U.S. attorney looks pretty 
insignificant.” 

All Ward would say, when asked about the case, was, “My gut tells me 
Hofmann didn’t do it.” 

For a while, Ward even refused to convene a grand jury to consider if 
there was sufficient evidence to indict Hofmann. When finally, under 
pressure, he did call a grand jury, he kept it on a short leash. Police and 
prosecutors were excluded from its sessions. Eventually, local officials 
pressured him into agreeing to allow a prosecutor from the county attor- 
ney’s office to sit in, but before he could attend his first session, he was 
informed that “a call had been placed to Washington, and Washington 
says, ‘You can’t do that.’ ” 

In fact, he wasn’t missing much. Of the more than two hundred people 



298 THE MORMON MURDERS 



interviewed in connection with the case, only a dozen or so were called 
before the grand jury. And of those, most were questioned in what would 
have been considered, in any other federal grand jury room, an unusual 
way. 

"Are you a Mormon?” A1 Rust was asked during his session before the 
grand jury. 

"Yes.” 

“How would you rate yourself as a Mormon between one and ten?” 

"Td like to put it at a nine or a ten, but Y m probably a five or a six.” 

"Have you been a Mormon bishop?” 

"Yes, 1 have.” 

Even Rust wondered, "Isn't it kind of strange that religion would be 
a part of the questioning? What difference should it make?” 

Even stranger was the determination of which witnesses would testify 
before the grand jury. 

Despite their centrality to the case, no Church officials were called to 
testify. When people complained, Ward insisted that there was no need 
to subpoena them to appear. Instead, he would simply request an appoint- 
ment at the Church Office Building and interview the officials himself, 
alone, one on one. No need for grand jury members or oaths or court 
reporters. And then he, Brent Ward, would decide what parts of the 
interview were relevant. 

Terri Christensen wasn’t the only one who suspected that Ward was 
running interference for the Church. "If you want results from the grand 
jury,” she told him one day, "go subpoena Gordon Hinckley instead of 
just going along the sidelines and making a show of it. Then you might 
just find something.” 

When she stalked out of the room, Ward turned to one of the federal 
agents and broke into a patronizing smile. "She’s a very nice-looking 
lady,” he confided, "but she doesn’t seem like a deep thinker.” 

At the meeting on October 29, no one was surprised when Brent Ward 
said he wasn’t ready to charge Hofmann. 

So Hayward was out, Cannon was out, and Ward was out. That meant 
Hofmann would remain a free man. 

Two days later, at seven in the morning, Bell and Farnsworth arrived 
at the LDS Hospital to escort Mark Hofmann home. His attorney had 
requested security. After all, there was still a crazed, homicidal Mormon 
fanatic out there who wanted to kill him. 

News of the release had been kept from the press, so Hofmann’s Toyota 



TOTAL FAITH 299 



van — the one that Aaron Teplick had picked out of a photo lineup — sat 
alone in front of the hospital when they arrived. Mark came out in a 
wheelchair, helped by Bill and Lu Hofmann and Dorie. When they 
arrived at the house on Marie Avenue, Bell and Farnsworth carried him 
into the house. 

For just a split second, Ken Farnsworth fantasized that he was carrying 
Hofmann into the state penitentiary at Point of the Mountain — where 
he belonged. But by now it was clear that if he and Bell were ever going 
to see that day, they would have to make it happen without help from 
anyone. 



A1 Rust couldn’t believe Mark Hofmann would do any- 
thing so terrible. Not that he was perfect, God knows. Cer- 
tainly no one had more right to complain than A1 Rust. He was paying 
$1,500 a month interest on the $150,000 he had borrowed to invest 
with Hofmann. He couldn’t sell off pieces from his precious Mormon 
collection because most of that was tied up in the investigation. Besides, 
the market for Mormonabilia had fallen apart since the bombings. He 
even had to face the possibility that he would have to sell his house to 
pay off his debts. Mark’s debts. /■ 

But bombings? forgeries? Rust just couldn’t believe it. “He’s not a 
drunkard,” he told himself. “He’s not a dope addict. He’s not a gambler. 
He’s not a womanizer. None of those things.” The police may have 
already tried and convicted him. But not A1 Rust. As a good Christian 
and a good Mormon, he was going to give his friend the benefit of the 
doubt. 

In fact, he was going to go to the hospital and wish him well — only, 
when he got there, Mark wasn’t receiving visitors. 

So, after they released Mark from the hospital, he decided to drop by 
the house. He called Dorie first. 

“Well, how’s he doing?” Rust asked, regretting the times he had lost 
his temper and exploded at Dorie. 

“Pretty good,” she said. 

“Will he have visitors?” 

“Yeah. I think he’d like to see you.” Rust was pleased that she didn’t 




300 THE MORMON MURDERS 



seem to hold a grudge. Boy, this must be a hard time for her, he thought. 
“Why don’t you ask him?’’ he suggested gently. 

While she was away from the phone, Rust thought again how wrong 
they were to suspect Mark of committing those bombings. A moment 
later she returned. “Yeah, he said he’d like to see you.” 

So Rust went home and carefully chose a book from his library, one that 
he felt sure Mark hadn’t read, and took it to him. 

As soon as he got there, he looked Mark straight in the eyes, and asked 
him point-blank: “Mark, did you commit these murders?” 

“No. I didn’t.” 

Even though he had never believed it, Rust felt a great weight lifted 
from his shoulders. “Do you know who did?” 

“No.” 

Rust believed that too, but he was still mindful of Mark’s shortcomings. 
“And what about all these lies on the McLellin papers?” he asked. 

“Well, right now, I’m confused on the McLellin papers,” said Hof- 
mann. “I don’t know just how to handle this. But right now I can’t talk 
about the McLellin papers. My lawyer won’t let me.” 

Rust didn’t want to let it drop. He wanted to clear the air between 
them. “Word is that you and I were to deliver them there that day, and 
you know I haven’t seen them, and I don’t have them in my safe-deposit 
box, which is where you told them the papers are.” 

“I can’t talk about that.” 

“Mark. You know my financial position. Shoot, I had to borrow that 
hundred and fifty thousand, and we kind of made an agreement that I 
would get it back within thirty days. It’s six months now, and I’m paying 
fifteen hundred a month interest. I need to recover it.” 

“No problem,” said Hofmann, fidgeting in his wheelchair. “I’m work- 
ing with my attorney to go back to New York and sell some things.” 
Rust thought that sounded suspiciously like another Hofmann story. 
After all this, were they just back to square one? He refused to believe that 
the pain and suffering Mark had been through hadn’t taught him some- 
thing. Besides, given the condition he was in now, it was wrong to press 
him on it. 

But he did see Mark’s civil attorney, Robert Schumacher. 
Schumacher told him that there was no plan to go to New York, no 
plan to sell anything. Mark had lied to him again. “Something’s sure 
wrong here,” Rust concluded. “I just keep getting stories.” So he filed a 
lawsuit, a process that produced nothing except the distressing news that 
Hofmann didn’t have a nickel to his name. 



TOTAL FAITH 301 



Rust visited Hofmann twice more at home, once by himself and once 
with Mark’s attorney. Both times, Mark sat impassively in his La-Z-Boy 
recliner and listened. Except every once in a while, when Rust caught 
Mark off guard out of the comer of his eye, he had the most offensive 
smirk on his face. 

But he still didn’t believe that Mark was capable of murder. 



The day after the third bombing, The Word came down 
from the offices of the First Presidency. 

It was quick, but not quite quick enough. The day of the Hofmann 
bombing — before the edict filtered down through the Church hierar- 
chy — Detective John Foster, a soft-spoken, self-effacing man with a dry 
sense of humor, visited Martell Bird in the Church Office Building. He 
was following up on Hofmann’s statement, given almost as soon as he 
regained consciousness, that he was being tailed by Church Security in 
a tan pickup truck. Foster told Bird, “Some allegations have been made 
that Mark had been followed by Church Security.” 

Bird denied the story adamantly. And he was willing to cooperate with 
the police in any way necessary to clear himself and his colleagues. 

When Foster brought him a list of all the owners of trucks resembling 
Hofmann’s description, Bird pulled out the Church employee records and 
cross-checked them with Foster’s list. They found one “kid,” who worked 
for Church Security, with the same last name as one of the owners on the 
list. The lead turned out to be a dry hole, but Foster was impressed with 
Bird’s cooperativeness. 

Like the way he offered the information about President Hinckley’s 
meeting with Mark Hofmann, a meeting that took place at the unlikely 
hour of 7:00 a.m. on October 4, less than two weeks before the bomb- 
ings. Foster didn’t have to ask about it. Bird just volunteered it, 
strangely enough, while emphasizing how little involvement there was 
between Hofmann and the Church. He considered the meeting “insig- 
nificant.” 

Foster didn’t. Despite his laconic humor and easygoing manner, Foster 
was a good cop, and, like all good cops, suspicious. He found it strange 
that a man who supposedly had no real involvement with the Church 




302 THE MORMON MURDERS 



would be visiting its President at seven in the morning — and even stranger 
that Martel] Bird would “blow it off” as insignificant. 

“I was curious about it myself,” Bird admitted when Foster pressed 
him. “So 1 went and asked President Hinckley about it. President Hinck- 
ley told me it was a guy named Mark Hofmann. ‘He came to tell me about 
some people who had transcripts of the conference agenda/ he said.” The 
semiannual Church conference was scheduled for the second week in 
October. Before each conference, transcripts of the talks to be given by 
Church officials are prepared and translated into various languages so they 
will be available at the time of the conference. But they are supposed to 
remain secret until officially released. 

Bird continued: “Hofmann was here to tell President Hinckley that 
somebody had copies of the transcripts and was about to let them out.” 
Bird said he had checked the Church Administration Building log and 
that Mark Hofmann had indeed paid a visit to President Hinckley at the 
unusually early hour of seven. 

When Foster told him about it, Ken Farnsworth was astonished that 
nobody had bothered to inform the police about the meeting — a meeting 
that might be crucial to understanding the pressures on Hofmann prior 
to the bombings. But at the same time, he was encouraged that Martell 
Bird, apparently, wanted to cooperate. Given the way everybody else was 
balking, he certainly welcomed the openness. 

The next day, The Word came down. 

Foster found that out when he officially requested copies of the 
Church Administration Building log — the log from the First Presi- 
dency guard station, not Hinckley's personal log book. “I'd like to get 
a copy of that sign-in sheet,” he said, “to show that Mark was there on 
that day.” 

Martell Bird called back a few minutes later. “It wasn't that day. I was 
mistaken about the day.” He said it was the latter part of September. He 
offered to provide a photocopy of the sign-in sheet for the right day. 

But when Foster went to pick up the photocopy, every entry except the 
one relating to Hofmann had been whited out. The day-timer had been 
copied, then expurgated, then copied again, giving the police no way to 
determine if relevant entries had been whited out along with irrelevant 
ones. 

When he asked for a photocopy of the sheet for October 4, the date 
originally mentioned, Bird refused. His attitude had completely changed. 
Instead of eager and cooperative, he had become cool, suspicious, and 
recalcitrant. Foster recognized the signs. “Somebody’s told him to shut 



TOTAL FAITH 303 

up, or told him that he shouldn't have ever said anything about it in the 
first place.” 

On the same day, Nurse Nancy Loden walked into the county attorney’s 
office with a Church lawyer. The Word, apparently, had also been passed 
from the boardroom on Temple Square to the boardroom of LDS 
Hospital. Jim Bell heard from friends on the nursing staff that the higher- 
ups had been very explicit: “Don’t talk to the cops, no matter what 
happens.” 

Just how much things had changed didn’t hit them until they went to 
the hospital to serve an investigative subpoena on Hofmann to obtain new 
fingerprints and photos of his injuries. At the security desk, they were told 
they would have to explain their business both to the security team and 
to the hospital administration. Both groups would need to see the paper- 
work and hear what they needed. 

“Is it okay if I call the defense attorneys?” asked the hospital di- 
rector. 

“Okay,” said Bell. “You can give them a call, but we’re here, and we’d 
like to do it and get it done and get on with our own work. We’ve got 
things to do.” Hell, they weren’t going to ask him any questions, they just 
wanted his fingerprints. 

But it was another fifteen minutes before the security officer found the 
time to take them to the area where Hofmann was being kept. And when 
they arrived, a staff member rushed in front of them with a portable X-ray 
machine. “Oh, looks like they’ve got to do some X rays first before we 
can go in there,” said the security guard, like a bit player in a high school 
drama. “We’ll have to wait.” They waited, coincidentally, until Yengich’s 
associate, Brad Rich, arrived. 

By the time Bell and Farnsworth talked to Hugh Pinnock on December 
2, the relationship between the Church and the police had turned from 
chilly to ice cold. Pinnock seemed to understand that: he shook through- 
out the meeting. In his fourteen years of police work, Farnsworth had 
never seen anybody more nervous. In a relatively short fifteen-minute 
exchange — the primary purpose of which was only to reassure him that 
they were not “out to get him” — Pinnock drank what seemed like an 
entire pitcher of water. Bell wondered how he would handle the real 
interview the following Friday. 

In fact, he was a basket case. With Dallin Oaks and the Church lawyer, 
Oscar McConkie, looking on in dismay, Pinnock led Farnsworth and 



304 THE MORMON MURDERS 



questioners from the county attorney's office and the FBI on a wild 
three-hour ride through the last five months of his life. 

His chronology was a mess: July, October, August, July, September, 
August, October. Farnsworth, who had prepared carefully, hardly had a 
chance to ask a question. He rarely knew what Pinnock was saying. It 
wasn't until afterward, when he deciphered his notes, that he began to 
see the gaping holes and inconsistencies. 

It wasn't that Pinnock hadn't kept a record. In fact, he had kept a 
meticulous record, a journal of every phone call, every meeting, with the 
names of everyone in attendance. He used a personal shorthand, with 
initials for names, to keep the entries brief, but they were complete — 
“down to the last sneeze" according to Farnsworth. 

So why was the presentation so incoherent? 

Because Pinnock didn ’t have the journal with him. 

Farnsworth couldn't believe it. Instead of reading from his journal, 
Pinnock had copied onto separate sheets of paper all the “relevant" 
entries. He even positioned them on the paper so they corresponded to 
the entries in the journal. The result was an incoherent patchwork of 
secondhand notes. Whenever somebody expressed confusion, Pinnock 
would simply say, “This is how it's written in my journal, but I don't have 
the journal here." 

Why didn 't he have his journal? 

“I don't want to show you all those personal things having to do with 
the Church," he said, shaking just as he had at their last meeting. “I could 
read from that if I wanted to," he added defensively. “I could do that." 

But he never did. He just returned to the cryptic entries and read 
verbatim, without expression. And if anyone asked him to elaborate, he 
simply said, “I can't remember." 

Not surprisingly, the interview produced few surprises. 

In retelling the events immediately following the bombings, Pinnock 
did seem genuinely touched. Farnsworth noted, “When he's talking with 
us, he's crying. He was just devastated by this. He wasn't concerned for 
his own personal safety — he was worried about his wife and kids. You can 
see him reliving his whole emotions. Talk about confusion, everybody was 
dying all around him. He didn't know what was going on. It was a hard 
time for him." 

On October 25, Pinnock said, he had paid off Hofmann's loan from 
First Interstate Bank — $171,243.76. Doing so had wiped out his liquidity. 
But, he said, “If I hadn't made the referral, the loan wouldn't have been 
made. It's mine and mine alone." 



TOTAL FAITH 305 

The Word had finally gotten through to Pinnock: protect the 
Church. 

Farnsworth came out of the interview believing Pinnock’s pain was genu- 
ine, but little else. “Just not telling all,” he wrote in his notes. 

The next day, December 7, was Mark Hofmann’s thirty-first birthday. 
Farnsworth, who felt an obligation to keep the victims’ families informed, 
reported the conversation with Pinnock to Terri Christensen, now eight 
months pregnant. He wasn't surprised by her reaction. 

“I am going to go to that man and talk to him myself,” she fumed. “I'm 
tired of all this . . .” — Farnsworth supplied the word crap — . . that I’m 
hearing.” 

But he talked her out of it. Confronting Pinnock now couldn’t do any 
good, he argued. Even worse, it might put other Church leaders on their 
guard. 



On December 9, Farnsworth interviewed Gordon B. 
Hinckley. 

It had been almost two months since the bombings, two months since 
Hinckley’s name first surfaced in connection with Mark Hofmann’s, two 
months since he became a key figure in a major police investigation. If 
he had been anybody else, the police would have paid him a visit long ago, 
before his memory faded, before he had a chance to revise his story to fit 
with the other stories appearing every day in the newspapers. But Hinck- 
ley wasn’t just anybody else. 

Even without the police badgering him, it hadn’t been an easy two 
months for Gordon Hinckley. Right-wingers in the Council of the Sev- 
enty were already meeting and talking in low, frustrated voices about how 
President Hinckley had mishandled the case. Mark Hofmann had fooled 
him. Where was his inspiration ? Some were already calling him a “fallen 
leader.” Hinckley fired back by circulating a statement within the General 
Authorities casting himself as a warrior fighting a stupendous, mortal 
battle against all the forces of Satan (a.k.a. Mark Hofmann) arrayed 
against him. How lucky the Church was to have escaped with only a little 
allegation of fraud. 




306 THE MORMON MURDERS 



But the militants weren’t fooled. They had already begun a whispering 
campaign: “Hinckley isn’t inspired. The Church needs a spiritual cleans- 
ing. He should step down.” 

The last thing he needed now was a police interrogation. 

Duffy Diamond, the sergeant of Homicide, wasn’t about to send just any 
detective to do the job. Although not a Mormon, Diamond had enough 
Irish savvy to know when to take his hat off. He knew the first question 
out of Hinckley’s mouth would be, “Are you a member of the Church?” 
quickly followed by, “In good standing?” The third question would be, 
“Where did you do your mission?” It was their standard way of asserting 
their claim — a claim that transcended anything so temporal as a job. 

That’s why Diamond picked Ken Farnsworth for the job. He was, to 
all appearances, a good Mormon, even if he wasn’t married. The county 
attorney’s office sent Mike George, one of its investigators, to join him, 
and an FBI man tagged along. As a Catholic, George didn’t think the 
pomp and circumstance would cow him, but he was wrong. Passing the 
big Corinthian columns and being led through the hushed, paneled halls, 
he felt as if he was having an audience with the Pope. 

This Pope wasn’t above playing power games. Hinckley let them cool 
their heels in his outer office for half an hour before instructing his 
secretary to usher them into his presence. His desk was artfully elevated 
on a platform to make him appear taller. During the interview, he took 
full advantage of the boost, looking down on his questioners through his 
cat-eye glasses. 

Even Popes, however, need legal counsel. So Hinckley had invited the 
Church’s lawyer, Wilford Kirton, to join them. 

The lighting was so subdued, thought Mike George, it could have been 
a funeral parlor. 

Curiously, Hinckley singled out Mike George, the Catholic, for his 
standard opener: “Are you a member of the Church?” George had to 
wonder if the Church didn’t already have a readout on the religious 
affiliations of all the key investigators in the Hofmann case. 

From the first question, Hinckley never relinquished control of the 
meeting. Normally, George would have seized the offensive by stalking 
the room, leaning over the witness’s desk, or even sitting on it. But 
somehow he didn’t feel right just getting up and sitting on the desk of 
the man who ran the Mormon Church — even if it was almost bare. 

Not surprisingly, the interview produced no revelations. Hinckley’s 
memory had not improved one jot since the press conference in October. 



TOTAL FAITH 307 

If anything, the controversy had driven details right out of his head. So 
many truly important things to worry about. He did have one addition to 
make to the record. “If you read the transcript of the press conference,” 
he said, “you will see that I said I dealt with two documents with Mark 
Hofmann, and I couldn’t remember the second one. The first was the 
Josiah Stowell letter. The second one was the David Whitmer letter.” 
(That was a brief document that confirmed the testimony of a witness to 
the Book of Mormon. ) Then he added the real point. “Actually, the 
Church bought them, and I simply handled the transactions.” 

Hinckley went on to review his contacts with Hofmann, from the 
Anthon Transcript to the Kinderhook plates. And, oh, yes, there was 
something called the McLellin Collection, but he had told Hofmann to 
take care of A1 Rust before he would talk about it. That was the last he 
could remember hearing about it. 

And what about Steve Christensen? 

After the press conference at which Hinckley had said he hardly knew 
Christensen, the police and prosecutors had been flooded with calls from 
Steve’s friends — good, upstanding members of the Church, even a 
bishop — who said that wasn’t true. They were confused and angry. Some- 
one like Hofmann might have exaggerated his relationship with Hinckley, 
but not Christensen. 

Hinckley sighed, clearly signaling his exasperation with answering the 
same questions again and again. He had met with Steve Christensen one 
time only, on April 12, 1985, when Mr. Christensen donated the Martin 
Harris letter to the Church. In other words, for the third time, “I don’t 
know him.” 

Farnsworth asked if there had been any special blessing conferred on 
Christensen or if the Church had made any special business agreement 
with him. Both his wife and his business partner had told Farnsworth 
about such an agreement. Kirton broke in. “A lot of people have egos and 
feed off of that stuff. They like to feel that they’re very important people.” 

Farnsworth wanted to say, “Who the hell do you think you are lectur- 
ing me, with my job, about human nature?” but said instead, as politely 
as possible, “Steve was different. Steve wasn’t that way. That wasn't his 
nature, from what I know.” He decided to hang them with their own rope. 
“And he was a bishop. I grew up in the Mormon Church. All of my 
bishops were honorable people. I had the highest respect for all of them, 
each and every one. A carpenter, a lawyer, you name it, they were the tops, 
in my opinion. They always conducted themselves properly, they were 
always sagacious people.” 



308 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Kirton sighed. “Ah. We have ten thousand bishops, and they have 
problems just like everybody else.” 

Farnsworth said to himself, “I get the picture you’re trying to paint 
here. Steve was just another person. This didn’t all happen, and there’s 
no way we’re gonna tell you anything about it even if it did.” 

President Hinckley said he had no further information relevant to the 
investigation. 

When they came out of the building, one of the investigators said under 
his breath, “Why, that lying son of a bitch.” Without blinking, Farns- 
worth and the FBI man nodded their heads in agreement. George was 
startled. He was the non-Mormon. 

Down at the department, Farnsworth recapped the interview and re- 
peated their assessment of Hinckley. Duffy Diamond agreed. “Those guys 
think they’re dealing with a bunch of dumbbells,” he fulminated. “A 
bunch of dopes. Well, I’ve got news for them. We ain’t no dummies over 
here.” 



Everyone agreed that it was a good thing Fred Harmon 
wasn’t there to hear Farnsworth’s account. 

Harmon, a solid family man from Sacramento, California, joined the 
Hofmann case soon after the bombings. He was the ATF’s operations 
officer, the man who kept track of all the information and gave out 
assignments. Like Jim Bell, he saw everything. 

He arrived a devout Mormon. 

Fifteen years before, Harmon had turned to the LDS Church after the 
crib death of his eight-month-old daughter. With their firm belief in the 
afterlife and in the reunion of families in the Celestial Kingdom, the 
Mormons offered Harmon hope and he grasped at it. “If it looks bad,” 
they explained to him in his grief, “it’s because you’re not seeing the 
whole picture. If you just have total faith, everything will eventually be 
made clear.” 

That lesson had gotten him through his personal tragedy, and in grati- 
tude Harmon had surrendered himself to the Church: studying the gos- 
pels — including those of Joseph Smith — raising his children in a devout 




TOTAL FAITH 309 

Mormon household, and living a rigorously Mormon life-style — not an 
easy thing for an adult convert outside Utah. 

Then he began to read the reports. 

It was the interviews with Church officials that first made him wonder. 
What were they covering up? If they were really the victims of a fraud 
and not the perpetrators, why were they afraid of the truth? But he told 
himself there had to be an answer. He just couldn’t see the whole picture. 
He just needed to have total faith, and eventually everything would be 
made clear. 

Then he listened to the press conference. He listened closely, hoping 
he might finally hear from the leaders of his Church the explanations that 
would make everything right again. Instead, he heard “lie after lie.” Dallin 
Oaks he pegged for an unwitting accomplice. The others had lied to him, 
Harmon figured. Pinnock was just ambitious. Like a functionary in any 
organization, he realized that pleasing Hinckley, handling his unpleasant 
little jobs, was the key to advancement. Pinnock, at least, looked chas- 
tened at the press conference. To Harmon, he acted like a man who knew 
he had erred. He had the grace to look chagrined. 

To Fred Harmon, devout Mormon, the real villain was President Gor- 
don B. Hinckley. He saw no chagrin on Hinckley’s broad, implacable face. 
No repentance. No apologies. No admission of wrongdoing. Just arro- 
gance — plain, unbridled arrogance. As far as he was concerned, Hinckley 
had fallen for Mark Hofmann’s blackmail, bought up damaging docu- 
ments and hidden them away in his private vault, and in so doing, 
indirectly contributed to the deaths of two innocent people. 

And then lied about it. As Harmon saw it, Hinckley had lied outright 
by saying he had met with Mark Hofmann only casually and with Steve 
Christensen only once; he had lied indirectly by allowing Church spokes- 
men to deny that the Church owned documents he had bought. And 
where did the money come from? If it was the Church’s money, what kind 
of accounting procedures were involved? To whom did Hinckley account, 
if anybody? Or did Hinckley consider himself answerable only to God? 

Fred Harmon, gentle man, loving father, faithful husband, devout 
Mormon, couldn’t contain his anger. 

He knew his religion well. Facing temptations and overcoming them 
were the essence of a religious life. Who was Gordon Hinckley to decide 
what the members of the Church could or could not know about the 
Church’s history? Who was he to decide what temptations were too 
tempting? 

Hinckley, he concluded, was no different from any other powerful man. 



310 THE MORMON MURDERS 



If absolute power corrupts absolutely, surely spiritual power corrupts 
spiritually. 

And what did it say about the Church? If the Church was run by men 
who told lies, was the Church itself a lie? Harmon refused to believe it. 
“If it looks bad,” he repeated to himself over and over, “it’s because I’m 
not seeing the whole picture. If I just have total faith, everything will 
eventually be made clear.” 

But it wasn’t. In fact, the more deeply he became immersed in the case, 
the more interviews he did, the worse the whole picture looked. He could 
feel his faith slipping away. He began to hate Gordon Hinckley, not just 
for the arrogance, not just for the lying, but for coming between him and 
his religion. 

Harmon heard that Terri Christensen shared his anger at the leaders 
of the Church and wanted to talk to her. “My wife is not the type to bite 
her tongue or keep her silence,” Harmon told Ken Farnsworth, “but if 
I had been in Steve Christensen’s place, she would be standing on top of 
the state capitol building with a megaphone screaming to the world what 
had been done to me and yelling about the lies that were being told and 
demanding justice.” 

But the meeting never took place. Around Thanksgiving, a fellow 
officer saw Fred Harmon sitting in his car outside the Hall of Justice, 
alone, sobbing. Soon afterward, he went home. 

Back in Sacramento, he met with his stake president and related his ordeal 
in detail. He didn’t have to describe the agony he had been through; it 
was written all over his face. The stake president listened sympathetically, 
then said, “There must be something missing. There has to be an explana- 
tion. There probably are a lot of things wrong with the administration of 
the Church, but still there must be an ultimate answer somewhere. You 
must have more faith.” 

Poor Fred still lacked total faith. 



TOTAL FAITH 311 



The Word came down to KSL-TV. 

In the lobby of the station's plush new offices on the 
first floor of the Triad Center, opposite the huge Palladian window, under 
the massive, brass-studded barrel vault, hung a picture of the chairman 
of the board of the Bonneville International Corp., the parent company 
of KSL. It was a picture of Gordon B. Hinckley. 

This wasn't the first time The Word had come down to the station. 
In the 1970s, it had been rocked by a series of scandals over Church 
intervention in news decisions. Programs considered by Church leaders 
to be "not in the interests of the faith," programs like "Mormon Women 
and Depression," had been summarily canceled. Other news stories were 
axed or modified either directly as a result of pressures from Church 
officials or because KSL management feared offending them. Scathing 
memos shot back and forth, journalists accusing the station of "handling 
stories sensitive to the Church in an arbitrary manner," and devout 
Mormons on the staff accusing the journalists of Mormon bashing. 

Spence Kinard, KSL's news director, remembered it well. Although a 
devout Mormon himself and an occasional spokesman for the Church, he 
had resigned over the flap. He even went public with his grievance, telling 
an AP reporter that he had been under "longtime constant pressure in 
the news director post" from both the Church and from the station, 
"concerned about the impact of news stories on its business and ideologi- 
cal concerns." 

Since that brouhaha and fearing FCC intervention, the station had 
tried hard to re-establish its credibility as an independent news source, 
even luring back Spence Kinard as news director. Reluctantly, the Church 
accepted the fact that if KSL was going to compete successfully with the 
two non-Church stations in Salt Lake City, and not run into FCC prob- 
lems, it would have to be able to report on the state's paramount institu- 
tion with at least the appearance of objectivity. 

But the reality remained largely unchanged. Whenever a reporter for- 
got to call a Church leader by his title, referring to "Gordon B. Hinckley" 
rather than “President Gordon B. Hinckley," angry memos would blanket 
the station like snowflakes on the nearby ski slopes. When KSL reported 




312 THE MORMON MURDERS 



that a young man who had hijacked a plane out of Salt Lake and de- 
manded a $500,000 ransom was “a former B.Y.U. student,” the Church 
raised a hue and cry. They didn’t want to have the name of the Church’s 
university associated with a common criminal. 

If such flare-ups were rare, it wasn’t because independent journalism 
had finally triumphed. If Church officials weren’t jerking KSL’s leash very 
often, it was because KSL, like every other television station and newspa- 
per in Utah, mindful of its Mormon audience, rarely tested the limits. 
Stories that cast a negative light on the Church were routinely down- 
played. 

If anything, the appearance of undue influence at KSL was greater than 
it had been in the seventies. Gordon Hinckley wasn’t the only key figure 
with one foot in the KSL newsroom and the other in the Church Office 
Building. Bruce Lindsay, KSL’s anchorman, although an ardent advocate 
of journalistic independence, was also the son of Richard Lindsay, chief 
Church spokesman; and one of the station’s investigative reporters, Lynn 
Packer, was a nephew to Apostle Boyd Packer. But no one was more 
intimately tied to the Church than Kinard himself, who delivered “The 
Spoken Word” for the Church, often introduced the Tabernacle Choir, 
and sometimes traveled with Church leaders and acted as their spokes- 
man. In addition, everyone suspected that there were two or three 
“moles” on the news staff who alerted Church officials to anything in the 
works that might conceivably meet their disapproval. 

And nothing met their disapproval like the Hofmann story. After years 
of a virtual blackout on negative reporting about the Church, it repre- 
sented what one reporter called “open season on the Mormon Church.” 
Suddenly, reporters were doing dozens of stories on Church-related issues, 
sensitive Church-related issues. 

And the Church wanted it stopped. 

As much as Gordon Hinckley hated the story, Lynn Packer loved it. Tall 
and dark, with the chiseled good looks of a TV newscaster. Packer, a 
part-time KSL reporter, rushed into the Hofmann story with full-time 
abandon. If ever there was a story to investigate, this was it. That he was 
a Mormon, that his uncle was an Apostle — an ultraconservative one to 
boot — that he would be, in essence, investigating his own company, all 
those things only made the story more irresistible. By Utah standards, it 
was a shocking attitude, but hardly surprising for a reporter who had come 
of age in the journalistic hothouse of Vietnam as a cub reporter for the 
military’s internal news operation. 



TOTAL FAITH 313 



Like any eager reporter, Packer occasionally went beyond the bounds. 
One Saturday, he called the newsroom from inside the county attorney’s 
office, a place that had been officially declared off limits after reporters 
were discovered sifting through the office garbage in search of leads. 

Eventually, Packer’s aggressive reporting helped put KSL in the uncom- 
fortable position of providing some of the most extensive, most in-depth 
coverage of the Hofmann case. Not because the Church allowed it, not 
because Spence Kinard approved of it, but simply because KSL couldn ’t 
stay' away from it. From the standpoint of local TV news, the story had 
everything: murder, mystery, big money, local characters — everything but 
sex. It was a certainty that the other two stations in town, both aggressive 
competitors for market share, would go after the story with everything 
they had. With November sweeps looming, KSL couldn’t afford to con- 
cede the story of the decade to the competition just because it made the 
Church uneasy. Subordinating journalistic ethics to the needs of the 
Church was one thing; sacrificing market share and advertising revenues 
was something else entirely. 

But there were still limits. 

In November, Packer prepared a story that went way beyond those 
limits. On the basis of extracts from Steve Christensen’s letters and 
journals that had been leaking piecemeal to the press, as well as other 
sources, Packer put together a report on the relationship between Chris- 
tensen and Hinckley. Although carefully worded, the story clearly con- 
tradicted the version of events that Hinckley had presented at the press 
conference, particularly the fiction, carefully nurtured by the Church, that 
Hinckley and Christensen had met only once and remained virtual stran- 
gers. 

On a morning in November, Packer met with his allies in the newsroom 
and circulated a draft of the Hinckley piece. It included part of an 
interview in which Shannon Flynn said he had sat in Hofmann’s Toyota 
MR2 a couple of times when Hofmann was meeting with Hinckley and 
that, another time, Hofmann carried on a cozy conversation with Hinck- 
ley on his car phone while Flynn listened. Everyone agreed it was an 
important story, but no one was optimistic about its seeing the light of 
day. “There’s no use trying to get it on the air,” said Ernie Ford, the 
assistant news director and managing editor. The problem, everyone 
agreed, was Kinard, whose approval was needed. 

Someone suggested that if they could put their hands on Christensen’s 
journals and letters — the hard evidence — then the station couldn’t sit on 
the story. Embarrassment or not, they would have to air it. 



314 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Packer knew that if he tried to push it through now, he would have to 
reveal his source for Christensen's papers, and within fifteen minutes that 
information would be on Gordon Hinckley's desk. Hinckley would make 
a few phone calls, the heat would come down on the source, and they 
would never see copies of the actual letters and journals. 

It had happened before. The day before the Church's press conference, 
they had prepared a story about a cop who claimed that the Church wasn't 
cooperating in the investigation and the police were considering sub- 
poenaing documents from the Church. Someone had leaked that to 
Church officials, who had turned around and put pressure on the station's 
senior management to kill the story. 

They agreed that, for now, the best course was to run only the part 
of the story relating to Christensen's departure from CFS and to leave 
the bombshell about Hinckley until more information came out. When 
word of the story leaked within the newsroom, Packer was approached 
by another reporter, known to be in regular contact with Church offi- 
cials. 

“Doing such stories would be unwise," he cautioned gravely. “And we 
shouldn't do them." 

“That's why I'm checking it out further," Packer said. 

The voice lowered to an ominous whisper. “Care should be taken in 
making such inquiries." 

To Packer, it all sounded familiar. 

He had been working for AFVN, the television network for American 
forces in Vietnam, on the night in 1970 when the military police sur- 
rounded a TV station in Saigon and arrested a newscaster. His crime: he 
had announced, on the air, “All the news you're getting here about the 
war is censored." 

The military didn’t officially permit censorship. But the men in charge 
had other ways of spreading The Word that certain stories were better 
left unreported. Packer, like the newscaster in Saigon, was among a small 
group of journalists who weren't playing by the informal rules. For exam- 
ple, the rules said you didn't report incidents of unprovoked hostility 
against local civilians. It didn't make the American Army look good. So 
the story of the My Lai massacre broke in the United States two or three 
days before it broke in Vietnam. 

And Lynn Packer was the reporter who broke it. 

The army threatened to court-martial him, but after a series of congres- 
sional hearings on military censorship, he became part of a compromise 



TOTAL FAITH 315 



deal. The military kicked him and four other men off the network, but 
they didn't prosecute them for disobeying orders. 

So Packer knew how big institutions worked in little ways, mostly 
painless, invisible ways, to cover their big crimes. 

The Hinckley story never ran. 

Packer also did a story about Hugh Pinnock and the loan at First Inter- 
state. Kinard viewed the tape and said it didn't add up to much. And he 
didn't trust Packer's source. 

Packer argued that the same journalistic suspicion should be directed 
at the General Authorities. “That's the role of a journalist — to treat 
information skeptically and check it out no matter who said it, whether 
it's Hinckley or Hofmann." 

The argument was lost on Kinard. As far as he was concerned, it was 
only further proof of what he had suspected all along, that Packer was out 
to get the Church. 

Ernie Ford called Packer in to let him know what kind of havoc his 
stories were causing. “You're getting us all in trouble." Surely he remem- 
bered Kinard's tantrum when another reporter, Con Psarras, did one 
Hofmann story too many. “Goddam it, you guys are trying to cost me my 
job," he yelled in the middle of the newsroom. “You are out to attack the 
Church!" 

Packer suddenly realized that the heat on the station management from 
the Church was far worse than he had imagined. 

Don Gale, the vice president for news of Bonneville International 
Corp., took the opportunity to express his view that Pinnock had acted 
alone in helping to arrange the First Interstate loan, perhaps even against 
the feelings of the more senior General Authorities on how the matter 
should be handled. 

The Pinnock story never ran. 

Finally, Kinard and the station's senior management tried a more 
general deterrent. They decided that the station had been running too 
many Hofmann stories. One day, Kinard looked at the calendar of pro- 
posed Hofmann stories and said, “That's ridiculous!" Soon afterward, the 
station officially limited the number of stories it would do. “The public 
doesn't understand the difference between the documents story and the 
murder story," said Don Gale in an effort to explain the move. From now 
on, Kinard would personally review all stories relating to the Hofmann 
case. 

Eventually, word leaked out to other news organizations that the report- 



316 THE MORMON MURDERS 



ers at KSL were complaining that their stories weren't getting on the air. 

One reporter called a KSL staffer and offered to act as an intermediary. 
“I hear KSL has a hell of a lot of information they won't let you use," 
he said. “Our station could take the information and put it on the air 
without saying where it came from." 

“I'm unhappy," the reporter admitted, “but we still hope the story will 
get on the air." 

At the first inconspicuous opportunity, Lynn Packer was fired. 



When November came and went and still no charges were 
filed — against Hofmann or anybody else — Bell and Farns- 
worth could feel the public turn against them. 

The press was having a field day. Bored with the Hofmann angle, 
they had made it into a story of police incompetence, of bewildered 
and desperate investigators grabbing at straws, manufacturing evidence, 
and hounding innocent citizens. An article in the January Utah Holi- 
day recounted, inaccurately, Farnsworth's encounter with the nurse at 
Hofmann's bedside that first night. It quoted an unnamed policeman 
as telling Mark directly, “You son of a bitch. This is what you deserve, 
and we're looking forward to getting you out of here so you can be 
executed." 

Another issue of the same magazine accused the police of not running 
a “thorough investigation." It also reminded them that vast numbers in 
the community doubted whether Hofmann was guilty at all. “As Utah 
Holiday went to press in December with the article," it pointed out, 
“Mark Hofmann had not been charged with murder, and police sources 
said that investigators are still scrambling for enough solid evidence to 
make charges stick. Friends and associates of Hofmann claim it is ludi- 
crous to believe that a man of Hofmann's impeccable credentials — reli- 
gious and professional — could bomb his former associates. Some people 
close to Hofmann believe he was 'set up' as a suspect." 

Picking holes in the police case had become a kind of local pastime. The 
eyewitness had said the suspect was wearing a jacket with brown sleeves, 
and Hofmann's jacket had gray sleeves. The witness said he had a mus- 




TOTAL FAITH 317 



tache, but Mark was clean-shaven. One witness said he wasn't wearing 
glasses, but Mark always wore glasses, and on and on. 

Over at the Tribune , Mike Carter, a friend of Ron Yengich's, had a 
field day with the biggest hole of all: motivation. “Sources close to the 
investigation say detectives have not yet come up with a scenario that 
would explain the second bomb that claimed the life of Mrs. Sheets," 
Carter wrote on October 26, “or a third device that exploded and critically 
injured Mr. Hofmann a day after the killings." 

Carter didn't think much of the police explanation that Christensen 
was killed because he had uncovered evidence of Hofmann's double- 
dealing or of the McLellin Collection scam (by now, it was generally 
accepted that the Collection never existed), or the even more incredible 
theory that the Sheets bomb was intended merely as a diversion, to make 
the killings look CFS-related. “If that is the case," wrote Carter, “they 
are left with no viable explanation as to the target of the third bomb that 
exploded in Mr. Hofmann's car." 

When the police composite leaked to the press, there were howls of 
derision. No one thought it looked like Hofmann. Bell and Farnsworth 
knew the problem: the public watched too much television. They were 
used to the portrait composites they had seen on police dramas. By real 
police standards, John Johnson's composite was pretty damn good, they 
thought. It had Hofmann's chin. Besides, the purpose of a composite 
wasn't to make a positive I.D., it was to exclude false suspects. But that 
distinction was lost on a press and public raised on “Dragnet" and “The 
Rockford Files." 

Meanwhile, Mark's neighbors eagerly fanned the flames of public outrage 
over police incompetence. One told a sheriff's deputy that Mark was at 
home at the time of the bombing. “It doesn't matter if he was there or 
not," she went on to say, “because you've got the wrong guy. You're 
crucifying him. I'll go into court and lie for him if I have to." 

Even some cops were beginning to have their doubts. It was a well- 
known maxim in the department that if you didn't nail a suspect in the 
first month of an investigation, you weren't going to nail him. And they 
had passed that deadline weeks ago. Hundreds of detectives had spent 
thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they didn't 
have a whole lot more on him than they did only three days into the case. 

The police knew the case was in trouble when they saw their hard-nosed 
chief, Bud Willoughby, walking through the office with a piece of string 
wound around his finger, holding it up in different directions trying to 



318 THE MORMON MURDERS 



pick up “vibrations.” Apparently, Gwen Wilcox, a psychic Willoughby 
consulted occasionally, had told him that this procedure might turn up 
some missing clues in the Hofmann case. 

If anybody still doubted that the police were hounding an innocent man, 
Hofmann’s attorney, Ron Yengich, was always there to drive the point 
home. 

Every time Bell and Farnsworth went to search the Hofmann house, 
Yengich and the press showed up soon thereafter. At a search on Sunday, 
November 3, the police offered to stay in their cars until Dorie could 
arrange for someone to take care of the children. When Yengich arrived, 
Farnsworth gave him a receipt for the search warrant. 

“What’s up, Ken?” Yengich asked informally. 

“We found some more information in the laboratory, and we need to 
do another search. Here’s your warrant.” It listed the specific items they 
were looking for. “This is what it’s all about. Any questions?” Yengich said 
no. 

Later, while the police were still searching, a reporter asked Farnsworth 
for an interview. 

“We don’t have anything to say,” Farnsworth said firmly. 

But Yengich did. That night, Farnsworth saw him with the same 
reporter on the evening news. He was complaining that the police have 
been here twice before and they’re here again. They can’t get it right. 
They just keep coming back. I don’t know what they’re after this time. 
Beats me. 

Farnsworth hit the ceiling. He had shown Yengich the warrant. Yen- 
gich knew exactly what they were after. It was all simply a play for 
sympathy, an attempt to make people believe that the police were pester- 
ing the Hofmanns, that they didn’t have a case so they were digging for 
something that wasn’t there. 

And, worst of all, it worked. 

A few days later, Bell and Farnsworth saw Bill Hofmann on TV telling 
reporters that the police were fabricating evidence to make the case 
against his son: that no matter how hard they searched, they couldn’t find 
the evidence, because it didn’t exist, so they were making it up. 

And if that wasn’t enough, Bill Hofmann then had a revelation from 
God that his son was innocent. 

Soon afterward, Dorie Hofmann called Brent Ashworth’s wife, Char- 
lene, and told her Mark had been on a mission to locate Mormon docu- 
ments and that the Devil was bringing him down. She swore that Mark 



TOTAL FAITH 319 



had been with her the entire night before the first bombings and couldn’t 
possibly have been the bomber. He was on a mission, and tbe forces of 
evil were combining against him. 

When he heard the story, Farnsworth decided that, by the forces of 
evil, Dorie must have meant him and Jim Bell. 

In mid-November, Yengich called David Raskin at the University of 
Utah. Raskin was the dean of American polygraphers, or, as he preferred 
to call them, “human psychophysiologists.'’ He had done the polygraphs 
for Patty Hearst and John De Lorean, as well as a host of defendants 
whose results on the test had not been revealed to the public. 

Yengich wanted him to perform a test on Mark Hofmann. 

Raskin, a full-bearded, academic looking man, may have wondered if 
it was appropriate for Yengich to be doing business with him at that 
moment, because Yengich was also representing him in a civil suit. But 
that would have meant questioning one of the most prominent defense 
attorneys in town, and the bulk of his business came from defense attor- 
neys. 

They agreed that the test would be performed in Yengich’s office by 
Raskin’s associate, Charles Honts. Everything was done with the utmost 
confidentiality, of course. Everyone knew the drill. If the defendant 
passed the test, the defense attorney would call a press conference, shout 
the results, and heap praise on the test and the examiner. If the defendant 
failed, the test would never see the light of day. For obvious reasons, even 
the fact that he had taken a test would be kept secret. That was what 
happened when he tested Ted Bundy — and dozens of other defendants. 
One of the reasons for the polygraph’s bad rap, Raskin often said, was that 
the public only heard about it when a defendant passed the test. Yet in 
the vast majority of cases, he didn’t. 

On November 13, Honts showed up at Yengich’s office. He was a huge 
man, six feet, four inches tall, well past two hundred pounds, huge face, 
huge belly, and a corona of sandy-colored hair and beard, looking like a 
cross between a mountain man and an absent-minded professor. Hof- 
mann was already there. Honts began with the usual pretest interview in 
which he asked about the events surrounding the three bombings a month 
before. Hofmann denied any direct involvement in the bombings except 
for being a victim of one of the blasts. 

Then Honts hooked Mark up to a four-channel Lafayette Polygraph 
machine. Model 76163, which recorded on a single strip chart Mark’s 
finger-pulse amplitude (flow of blood through the fingers), relative blood 



320 THE MORMON MURDERS 



pressure, thoracic respiration (breath rate), and skin resistance (sweating 
on his hands — usually the most telling indicator). 

The test itself was divided into three groups of questions: control 
questions, filler questions, and relevant questions. The control questions 
were designed to elicit a 'Violent” response even from innocent subjects, 
questions like "Have you ever broken the law?” or "Have you cheated on 
your income taxes?” These questions, supposedly, established a standard 
for "guilty” responses. The filler questions were innocuous inquiries de- 
signed to elicit a passive response, even from guilty subjects. They estab- 
lished the standard for "innocent” responses. 

The relevant questions were the real test. Honts had already gone over 
them with Hofmann during the pretest interview, but there was still 
palpable tension in the room when he began to ask them with the ma- 
chine humming and scratching. 

"Before it exploded, did you know there was a bomb in your car?” 
"No.” 

"Did you plant either of the bombs that exploded on October 15?” 

"No.” 

"Did you, yourself, cause any of the bombings of October 15 and 16?” 

"No.” 

Through it all, Hofmann remained completely calm. 

In accordance with Utah state law, Honts went through the three sets 
of questions — control, filler, and relevant — three times. 

After the third round, Honts stroked his wild beard. Hofmann’s results 
were inconclusive. Something about the scores bothered Honts. There 
were too many inconsistencies. He wanted to go through the questions 
a fourth time. From the psychological profile, he knew Hofmann was 
clever. And he was holding his legs together in a strange, awkward way. 
Could he have read David Lykken’s book, A Tremor in the Blood y that 
explains how to fool a polygraph? Or was Honts just imagining things? 

Could Hofmann be a pathological liar? There was evidence that psy- 
chopaths and sociopaths could beat the test, but Honts dismissed it. 
He felt that psychopaths take so much pride in their lying and get so 
much pleasure from it, that their physiological pleasure responses are 
almost identical to the "healthy” defendant’s guilty responses. He and 
Raskin had done some studies on the accuracy of polygraphs on psy- 
chopathic subjects and determined, not surprisingly, that they were in 
fact quite accurate. After all, Ted Bundy had failed the test. 

But the fourth time around, all Honts’s doubts were cleared up. 

Hofmann was telling the truth. 



TOTAL FAITH 321 

When Honts announced the good news, Yengich couldn’t wait to share 
it with the world. 

At 5:15 the same day, John Harrington, a reporter for KTVX, Channel 
4, received a call from Yengich ’s associate, Brad Rich. “I’m gonna tell you 
something, but it’s embargoed until after six,” he said, “because we 
promised it to Channel 2 first. We want them to have it first, because we 
promised, but you should be aware that Mark took a lie detector test and 
passed it with flying colors.” 

“Why are you telling me this at 5:15?” asked Harrington. 

“Well, I just thought you needed to know.” 

Harrington hung up. He was steaming mad. What kind of reporter did 
Yengich and Rich think he was? Did they really think they could call up 
with a story fifteen minutes before the early evening news went on the 
air and he would not run it? Did they think Harrington would sit on it 
until after six? 

Harrington immediately typed up a story to the effect that the defense 
had secretly announced that Mark Hofmann had passed a lie-detector 
examination and had leaked it to another news station on an exclusive 
basis. In the report, he quoted Rich saying that the story was confidential 
and off the record. “This is just something you need to know,” he quoted 
Rich. “But we’re embargoing it.” 

And they ran it on the next news program as a hot flash. 

The next day Rich pretended to be piqued, but Harrington already 
knew he had been tricked. If Yengich and Rich hadn’t intended for him 
to use the story, Rich wouldn’t have given him the story. By making it 
the subject of a rivalry between the stations, he had turned it into big 
news. 

And it was big news. Honts went on television and said it right out: Mark 
passed his polygraph. He was telling the truth when he denied knowing 
a bomb was in his car and denied planting the bombs that exploded on 
October 15. Then Rich went on. Hofmann is innocent, he said. Go look 
for somebody else. Then Bill Hofmann went on. My son didn’t do it, he 
insisted again, more plausibly this time. I asked him, and he said he didn’t. 
And look, he passed the polygraph. So he isn’t lying. 

At the police department, the switchboard lit up. Every police witness, 
and every member of the victims’ families, every reporter called demand- 
ing an explanation: If Mark was guilty, how had he passed the test? 

Jim Bell, who had taken a polygraph test as part of his police training 



322 THE MORMON MURDERS 



and failed repeatedly, explained that there were ways to fool a polygraph, 
like putting something between your toes and pressing on it. Or simply 
focusing your mind on some irrelevant thought. Ken Farnsworth ex- 
plained to Terri Christensen that Hofmann’s medical condition could 
have interfered with the test. “With major damage to his leg, he might 
be on medication that could alter the results. Besides which, from the best 
we can tell, Mark is a sociopathic liar. He could probably walk right 
through a test because he has no fear of it. And if there’s no fear, there’s 
no test.” Terri was easier to reassure than the others. She knew Mark 
Hofmann was guilty. Her only question was how a guilty man could pass 
the test. 

At the county attorney’s office, Gerry D’Elia railed against polygra- 
phers. “They’re so full of shit it comes out of their ears.” “Give us the 
charts,” he yelled at Rich. “Let us read them. You’ve administered the 
test. We don’t care what the test shows, just let us interpret it. Let’s see 
what the control questions are.” But Yengich never released them. 

The next day, D’Elia said to Brad Rich, “1 bet the results surprised 
you a lot more than they surprised me.” 

The next week, Dorie Hofmann took the test in the conference room 
of Yengich’s offices. Unlike her husband, she was terrified. Honts asked 
her if Mark had been with her the entire night before the bombings. She 
said yes. 

She, too, passed the test. 

When Carl Lundquist heard the news about his old friend Mark Hof- 
mann, he remembered a conversation they had had one night many years 
ago after stopping at the Safeway to buy some doughnuts and a Coke. It 
was another of their stimulating, free-ranging talks about everything from 
religion to nuclear war. 

“Do you think you could trick a lie-detector test?” Mark asked. 

“I don’t know,” said Lundquist. 

“Well, I think I could. I know how they work, and to trick one, all you’d 
have to do is train your brain and your thinking to do what you want it 
to. If you’re ultimately in control of yourself, you could tell the lie detector 
anything, and it would register as a truth.” 



TOTAL FAITH 323 



Duck-hunting season came and went, and Jim Bell missed it. 
He couldn’t even find time for jogging. Instead, he hiber- 
nated in the Hofmann “war room,” developed a passion for Crackerjack, 
and put on weight. So did Ken Farnsworth, who hadn’t been out to the 
department shooting range since the day of the bombings. The paranoia 
and night sweats returned, for the first time since his undercover days. He 
started leaving his gun on the nightstand next to his bed again, a habit 
that had taken him six months to break after the sting operation. It wasn’t 
the physical danger, it was the anxiety. 

He didn’t get to play much basketball either. The one time he did, it 
was a pickup game, one-on-one with Ron Yengich in the department 
basketball court next to the evidence rooms. 

They couldn’t get away from the case. 

But they couldn’t talk about it either. There had been so many leaks 
from the department, from the sheriff’s office, from the county attorney’s 
office, from the defense counsel, that Bell and Farnsworth barely spoke 
to each other anymore. 

Hell, they couldn’t even talk to Chief Willoughby about it. In the first 
weeks of the investigation. Bell had briefed Willoughby almost every day, 
sometimes two or three times a day. “You don’t talk to your lieutenant, 
you don’t talk to your captain,” the chief had told him. “You just come 
and talk to me.” The discussions had been outrageously frank, Wil- 
loughby not being the kind of man to stand on rank. 

But one day Willoughby called him in to say he didn’t want to know 
what was going on anymore. He didn’t want anyone to be able to accuse 
him of leaking information to the press. “1 don’t want you and Ken to 
be neutered by the people across the street,” Willoughby said, referring 
to the county attorney’s office. “I don’t want them to say, ‘We can’t share 
information with you because you’ve got to tell the chief, and we think 
he’s telling everybody.’ ” Their daily meetings stopped. That’s how para- 
noid everybody was. 

Bell couldn’t even go home and talk to his wife, Patti. Even if he could, 
his thoughts were so deep into the minutiae of the case, she wouldn’t 
begin to understand. It got to the point where he broke into a sweat if 




324 THE MORMON MURDERS 



he thought she was going to ask him a question about it. He knew he 
would either say nothing or go on for five hours. Either disappear or 
explode. He would come home, always late, and just stare at the wall. He 
would go to bed and not sleep. 

The entire case was in his head. In the beginning, they tried a computer 
program to organize all the information, all the leads and rumors and 
possibilities, but it proved woefully inadequate to the task. So Bell's head 
remained the computer. At times, he was afraid that if he broke his 
concentration even for a minute, the whole case would disintegrate. No 
wonder he couldn't sleep. 

Or he would wake up in the middle of the night with a thought that 
he had to write down, one more memorandum to assign, one more 
question for one more cop to ask one more witness. And when he couldn't 
get back to sleep, he would dress and drive down to the Hall of Justice 
to join the graveyard shift of rookies, sifting through the mountains of 
evidence. 

When Farnsworth stole a day to attend a family get-together, he 
couldn't sit down to dinner without his mother or his sister or his brother 
or his niece or someone asking him something he couldn't tell them about 
the Hofmann case. Or, even worse, volunteering advice: “You've got the 
wrong guy. I watch TV, and your case against Hofmann doesn't look 
good." 

Around the eighth floor war room, the humor only came in black. Kyle 
Jones brought in some fortune cookies in the shape of white salamanders, 
each one labeled with the name of one of the cops working the case. Inside 
were fortunes from fu-ling-yu: “Office space available in Judge Building, 
real cheap.” 

It was a sign of the times that the only diverting moments were 
provided by another murder case, the first to come their way since the 
night of October 15. In the middle of a jealous spat, a twenty-nine-year- 
old Mexican woman accidentally killed her sixty-two-year-old lover by 
beating him to death with a pair of Sears binoculars. 

But the next day, it was back to overtime in the war room, back to what 
Bell had dubbed “the royal pain in the butt": Mark Hofmann. 

It didn't take a close friend to notice that the case was taking its toll 
on Jim Bell. Old “Stretch" just wasn't the congenial guy he used to be. 
He yelled at friends, snapped at subordinates, ate nothing but junk food, 
and looked like hell. 

They could only imagine what was happening at home. 



TOTAL FAITH 325 



In fact, it was worse than they imagined. Patti tried to maintain her 
own grueling schedule as an emergency-room nurse while assuming full 
responsibility for keeping the family and the household going. Even under 
the best of circumstances, it would have been trying. But the Bells had 
recently sold a video rental shop, and there was still a drawerful of paper- 
work to be taken care of. And there was Steven, their second child. The 
doctors suspected that he had cystic fibrosis. More than once, he became 
so short of breath that Patti had to rush him to the hospital in the middle 
of the night. Where was Jim at these moments of crisis? Where he always 
was, down at the Hall of Justice, working late on the Hofmann case. 

Patti was a strong, self-reliant woman, but there was a point beyond 
which even she couldn’t bend. One day she called Ken Farnsworth, 
desperate and sobbing. “When is this going to be over?” she cried. “I 
can’t take it anymore. 1 never see him. He doesn’t know his kids. When 
is this going to be over?’’ 



But they kept working. The city stopped paying overtime, 
ATF cut its contingent by half, the sheriff’s office wouldn’t 
show up for meetings, the U.S. attorney wouldn’t share information with 
them, the press ridiculed them, Ron Yengich reviled them, and Bill 
Hofmann seemed to be accusing them of conspiring with the Devil, but 
they kept working, clinging to the hope that maybe the next search, the 
next interview, the next lead, would convince somebody to charge Hof- 
mann with something. 

Ever since Jerry Taylor told them that the bomb had been made with 
C-cell-battery packs from Radio Shack, they had been trying to track down 
the clerk who sold them to Hofmann. There were nineteen Radio Shack 
stores in Salt Lake City alone, and each of those had thousands of receipts 
for September and October. And maybe Hofmann used an alias, so they 
had to try for every possible variation on Mark Hofmann, including any 
name with the initials M. H. And maybe someone else, an accomplice, 
bought the stuff for him, so they had to check for Brent Metcalfe, Shannon 
Flynn, and Lyn Jacobs, and possible variations on those names. 

At first, they hoped they might find a shortcut through the huge sea 
of paperwork. Bell called the parent company in Dallas, Texas, and discov- 




326 THE MORMON MURDERS 



ered that all the receipts were computerized. Theoretically, anyone who 
bought anything at Radio Shack had his or her name added to a computer 
mailing list. In reality, however, it wasn't that easy. When they ran the 
names Bell gave them through the computer, they came up empty. Some- 
times, a name doesn't make it onto the list, they explained. A clerk forgets 
to write it in. 

So they went back to the stores. 

At the very first one they visited, the Cottonwood Mall branch, an ATF 
officer found a receipt for a battery pack and a mercury switch. The name 
on the receipt: Mike Hansen — the same name Bell had found in Hof- 
mann's papers. The customer had given a false Salt Lake City address — a 
vacant lot. The lot was about a mile and a half from Hofmann's home. 
The next day, at the same store, they found a second receipt, also made 
out to Mike Hansen, with a different address, also false. 

For a few days, the results looked encouraging. 

Then they found a clerk who routinely made up names to avoid his 
boss's wrath when he forgot to enter the customer's real name on the 
receipt. One of the names he used most often: Mike Hansen. 

They tried the search in reverse, pulling out all the receipts for mercury 
switches and tracking down all the buyers. From September 1 to October 
1 5, thirty-seven mercury switches had been sold between the Idaho border 
and Spanish Fork, Utah, between Nevada and Wyoming. They tracked 
down and cleared as many as they could, thirty-two. Of the remaining five, 
three were eliminated for other reasons, one was sold with a D-cell-battery 
pack to an M. Hansen, and one with two C-cell-battery packs to their old 
friend, Mike Hansen. 

But how could they prove Mike Hansen was really Mark Hofmann? 

The first step was to prove that he wasn't anybody else. To do that, they 
had to contact every Mike Hansen in the state of Utah to see, first, if one 
of them had made the Radio Shack purchases, and second, if he matched 
the description of the man seen carrying the bomb into the Judge Build- 
ing the morning of Steve Christensen's killing. Using the telephone book, 
drivers' license directories, and Polk consumer directories, they had made 
a list of fifty people in the Salt Lake City area alone. It was a long, slow 
process — they always seemed to be about three addresses behind — and it 
had only just begun. 

While still in the hospital, Hofmann had said that he left his car door 
locked the day he returned to find the bomb on the seat. So if Hofmann 
was telling the truth, the bomber must have broken in. 



TOTAL FAITH 327 



But what if that particular car was jimmy-proof? It wouldn’t prove 
Hofmann was the bomber, but it would shoot another hole in his story. 

The Wagstaff Toyota dealership could not have been more helpful. 
The manager gave them the pick of his cars, and they put their best lock 
man on the job — a man who popped cars every day of the week with 
slim-jims. With a video camera rolling, he went to work, scratching and 
banging at the lock until the car was a mess. But the door wouldn’t open. 
He finally had to take the entire door panel off and study the lock 
mechanism before he could get into the vehicle. 

They offered to pay the Toyota man for the damage but he said not 
to worry, he would take care of it. 

When they got back to the department, they discovered that Hof- 
mann’s MR2 was a 1984 model. They had been working on a 1985. So 
they went back to the Toyota man for another car. But the result was the 
same: one more frustrated locksmith, one more tom-up car, and one more 
Hofmann lie. 

Toyota also provided a list of six hundred people in Utah who owned 
vans like Hofmann’s. Bell was determined to interview all six hundred, but 
that would take all winter. 

Hofmann had also said that he was driving around in Emigration Canyon 
on the morning of October 16, before the third bombing. Then Shannon 
Flynn confessed that he and Hofmann had shot their Uzi up in Emigra- 
tion Canyon. Then they discovered that Mark had been looking at a house 
in Pinecrest Canyon, an offshoot of Emigration Canyon. Maybe he had 
done other things up there. Like build bombs. 

On November 23, Farnsworth and a team of detectives canvassed 
Pinecrest Canyon, which was dotted with rustic cabins and isolated es- 
tates. There was only one way to do it: knock on every door up and down 
the two-mile canyon. 

They found a sixteen-year-old girl who had been riding home on a 
school bus when she saw a car just like Hofmann’s MR2 parked in front 
of a shed near a Swiss chalet-style house — the house Hofmann had 
considered buying. Later, at the Hall of Justice, she repeated the story to 
the police. Both she and her mother knew of the Hofmann investigation 
and were terrified at being dragged into it, but felt duty-bound to help 
however they could. Farnsworth found that a refreshing attitude. 

The girl also led them to another student, a ninth-grade boy, who had 
been sitting on the right side of the bus and saw the open shed. When 
they talked to him, he said he noticed it because every other day when 



328 THE MORMON MURDERS 



the bus drove past, the shed had been closed. He, too, was nervous about 
being a part of the Hofmann investigation. 

Like the girl, he told them they should talk to the bus driver. 

The bus driver had actually seen Mark Hofmann — or somebody who 
fit Hofmann's description. “He actually walked right in front of the 
bus, as if he wasn't paying attention to what he was doing," said the 
driver, a sharp, dark-haired man from Kamas. “He was so deep in con- 
centration. I almost hit him." Then he gave them the precise time of 
the incident. 

How did he remember the precise time? 

He drove the same route every day, and he knew what time it was by 
where he was on the route. 

There was only one problem. He said it happened on Tuesday, the day 
of the first bombings, not Wednesday, when Hofmann said he was there. 

On December 4, they did the drains. Because they hadn't found the 
mercury switch or wires used in the bomb that destroyed Hofmann's car, 
they decided to dredge the gutters near where the car had been parked. 
They started at nine in the morning. It was filthy, cold, back-breaking 
work. And it turned up nothing. 

For Bell and Farnsworth, the investigation had hit rock bottom. 



One more time, Jim Bell made his pitch. “There might not 
be enough evidence to take the Hofmann case to court yet. 
But at least we should get the ball rolling. Let's arrest Mark. Let's get the 
warrants. Let's get it started. If we arrest him, it will generate confidence 
in the case. It will bring witnesses out of the woodwork. And at least it 
will get the community off our backs. If we don't file soon, we'll never 
be able to convince anybody that there's a case." 

But Bell was wasting his breath. The man on the other side of the table 
wasn't even listening. 

Bob Stott, the deputy county attorney, rarely listened. It was his way 
of controlling a conversation. No matter how short or simple the explana- 
tion, Bob Stott always had to hear it one more time. After an hour-long 
explanation of a complex case, he was always the one who asked a question 




TOTAL FAITH 329 

that took the discussion back to square one. “You have to pull him 
through a case by the nose,” says a colleague. 

Bell and Farnsworth had hoped, prayed, in fact, that the day would 
never come when they would have to lead Bob Stott by the nose through 
this case. At first, it looked as if Gerry D’Elia, the street-sawy prosecutor 
from back East, would take the case into court. He had arrived at the 
bombing scenes soon after the police and had stuck with the case ever 
since, assisting the searches and fighting the legal battle with Nurse 
Loden. Unlike so many people, he had done everything he could to make 
the investigation easier, not harder. They liked him. He was a cop’s 
lawyer, quick-thinking, kick-ass, combative. 

Or if not D’Elia, then David Biggs, a dapper young prosecutor who had 
joined the county attorney’s office only five months earlier. Like D’Elia, 
he had worked with the cops from the beginning. They hadn’t always seen 
eye to eye. Biggs, in particular, didn’t think they had enough on the Sheets 
murder for an arrest, and he wasn’t shy about telling them so, but at least 
he pulled in the same direction. 

Not Bob Stott. He just looked at them with his startling cerulean-blue 
eyes and tilted his big round head to one side in what could have been 
either a nervous tic or a sign of total incomprehension. 

Stott told people that as a youngster growing up in a devout Mormon 
family in Geneva, Utah, he had developed his verbal skills as a way of 
besting his belligerent brother. “I could never win the physical battles, so 
I had to try to win the other ones.” But it took only five minutes of 
listening to him in the courtroom to know that his verbal skills had never 
won any battles. He mispronounced words, rambled incoherently, dangled 
participles, mangled syntax, and, despite mighty efforts, often failed to get 
subject and verb to agree. With all that, the fact that he often forgot 
names — not just personal names but simple nouns too — went almost 
unnoticed. Although no one in the office would forget the day when, in 
the middle of a trial, he forgot the defendant’s name. 

No, Bob Stott became a lawyer because lawyers were in control. Or at 
least that was the impression he got from watching Perry Mason. In nine 
years at the Salt Lake County Attorney’s Office, he had worked his way 
into a supervisory position where he had control both over cases and over 
other lawyers. In court, he was a plodder. Determined to maintain control, 
he spent hundreds of hours preparing for every possible contingency, 
writing out every question and every conceivable answer beforehand on 
yellow legal pads. 

If the case was simple and everything went according to plan, he looked 



330 THE MORMON MURDERS 



good, juries sometimes took to his low-key manner and workmanlike 
approach. Sometimes, they just felt sorry for him. ‘if you put the proper 
makeup on him, and do his hairstyle for him, and walk him into the 
courtroom, and tell him everything he has to say, then he can do a good 
job/' says a colleague. “But set him on his own, and he can’t organize a 
ham sandwich.” 

Of course, as a supervisor, Stott made sure to pick and choose his cases 
and control his work load in such a way that he always looked good. 

Still, Stott had helped prosecute a variety of famous defendants during 
his nine years at the county attorney’s office, including Ted Bundy, the 
serial murderer; Ervil LeBaron, the fanatic polygamist; Joseph Paul Frank- 
lin, the white racist; and, most recently, Ronnie Lee Gardner. Gardner 
was already on trial for murder when, using a gun slipped to him in the 
courthouse by an accomplice, he tried to shoot his way out, killing one 
man and wounding several others in the process. 

It was an impressive record, and no one was more impressed with it 
than Bob Stott. Others may have considered him slow-witted and 
dull, but Bob Stott considered himself a very successful advocate — he 
was the best lawyer on the county payroll and he wasn’t shy about say- 
ing so. In his eagerness to demonstrate his superiority, in fact, he had 
more than once appropriated credit for brilliant ideas that originated 
elsewhere on his staff — a practice that won him no friends among his 
colleagues. 

In fact, it was Bob Stott’s vanity that had gotten him into the Hofmann 
ease in the first place. 

At first, he didn’t want it. As a devout Mormon — a very devout Mor- 
mon — the last thing he could have wanted was a case that involved the 
Mormon Church. From the second day, anyone could see that this case 
was filled with trapdoors. As lead prosecutor, he would have to interview 
leaders of the Church who most definitely did not want to be interviewed. 
God forbid, he might even have to subpoena Church records and, even 
worse, call Church leaders to testify in court. The thought of putting 
President Gordon B. Hinckley on the witness stand in a murder trial was 
enough to give Bob Stott chills. 

On the other hand, it was the case of the century, the highest-profile 
case ever to come along, and if Bob Stott didn’t take it, somebody else 
would. And it would be his feather, not Stott’s. Inevitably, he would lose 
some status — and that, too, was enough to give Bob Stott chills. 

For the first month of the investigation, he tried not to commit himself, 
tried to stand back and see where the case was going, letting D’Elia and 



TOTAL FAITH 331 



Biggs work with the police and take the heat. If it turned out the Church 
wasn’t that deeply involved after all, he could always jump in and grab 
the case without taking the risks. 

Eventually, vanity won out over caution. 

By mid-November, County Attorney Ted Cannon had to have an 
answer. The case was getting complicated, both legally and politically, and 
D’Elia and Biggs were getting too far out in front. Soon, it would be 
impossible to turn the case over to Stott, even if he wanted it. “Today 
is it,” Cannon told Stott on November 18. “You’ve got to stop kidding 
around. Either you want to be the case manager as far as the county 
attorney’s office is concerned, or it’s going to be Gerry D’Elia. But which- 
ever way. I’m going to have the decision by 4 o'clock.” 

Stott chose to interpret Cannon’s ultimatum as a plea. He needed his 
“best man” on the Hofmann case, and there was no doubt in Bob Stott’s 
mind who the best man was. 

“Please, Bob, tell us exactly what you want in order to file a complaint 
on Hofmann.” Jim Bell tried not to sound as if he was begging, but it was 
hard not to betray his frustration. 

Stott couldn’t give them an answer — or wouldn’t. 

So he and Farnsworth went back to the war room and sat around in 
stunned silence. What could they do, that they hadn’t done already, to 
get the county attorney’s office off its butt to file a case? Someone sug- 
gested that perhaps the problem was partly theirs. Perhaps they had made 
the case too complicated. Perhaps Stott didn’t really understand it. Per- 
haps they hadn’t done enough to make it understandable. Maybe it was 
all just a failure to communicate. 

If the prosecutors wouldn’t put together the case against Hofmann, 
then the police would do it for them. They would show them in the 
clearest possible terms exactly what they had to work with. 

So that’s what they did. A group of ten or twelve officers directly 
involved in the investigation — about half police, half ATF agents — sat 
down in front of the chalkboard and listed the evidence against Hofmann 
item by item: 

1) Two eyewitnesses who saw him carrying the bomb. 

2) The letter jacket found in his home corresponding to the eyewitnesses’ 
description. 

3) Robert Pitts’s statement that Hofmann was in Christensen’s office one 
week prior to the bombing and they were arguing. 



332 



THE MORMON MURDERS 



4) A witness who saw Hofmann wearing his letter jacket the day of the 
bombing. 

5) Jerry Taylor’s rock-solid conclusion that the three bombs were distinc- 
tive and consistent. 

6) Hofmann clearly holding the bomb in his car. 

7) Crease on his pants showing that his position in the car was not what 
he said it was at the time of the third bombing. 

8) Brad Carter’s statement that Hofmann was inside the car at the time 
of the bombing — also inconsistent with Hofmann’s statement. 

9) Aaron Teplick’s identification of Hofmann’s van in front of the Sheets 
house the morning of the bombings. 

10) The Radio Shack receipt for a mercury switch purchased by an 
M. Hansen, and the Mike Hansen envelope in Hofmann’s office. 

1 1 ) Shannon Flynn’s testimony that Hofmann was knowledgeable in the 
use of explosives. 

12) A Radio Shack catalog found in Hofmann’s house in which someone 
had circled the type of C-cell-battery pack used in the bombs. 

Next they made a second list outlining the case for Hofmann, Yen- 
gich’s case, all the holes and hurdles prosecutors would face if they in- 
dicted Hofmann immediately. They typed up both lists and made copies 
for everybody. Then Bell called the county attorney’s office and asked for 
a rehearing, with the whole staff: Cannon, Stott, D’Elia, the works. It was 
do-or-die time. 

A few days later, Bell and Farnsworth led a contingent back across the 
street to the county attorney’s office and made their pitch again. Unlike 
Stott, Cannon, a genial, white-haired man with an off-center sense of 
humor, welcomed them. He inquired about the status of the effort to 
compel Nurse Loden to testify (the Utah Supreme Court was scheduled 
to hear the appeal) and seemed to share their determination to bring the 
case to trial soon. For the first time since the case began, Farnsworth felt 
as if the police department and the county attorney’s office were working 
on the same team. 

"By golly,” said Cannon, "we still have to work on the Sheets case, but 
I think we can get a conviction on the Christensen case.” To the cops’ 
ears, it was music. Finally, someone agreed that they had a prosecutable 
case. Farnsworth wrote in his notes of the meeting: "It worked out really 
well. . . . They were being so difficult a couple of days before because Bob 
Stott was running the case.” 

Optimism was still running high the following Monday when Cannon 
called Chief Willoughby to say, "We can convict Hofmann on the Chris- 



TOTAL FAITH 333 



tensen case.” Even the Utah Supreme Court’s decision on December 5 
refusing to compel Nurse Loden to divulge what she heard in the hospital 
couldn’t dampen Jim Bell’s spirits. 

Any day now, they could arrest Mark Hofmann. 



Three weeks later, Hofmann was still a free man. 

And everybody knew why: Bob Stott wasn’t ready yet. 

Again Bell requested a meeting with the county attorney’s office to 
“review” the case; that is, to light a fire under Stott. This time, he pulled 
in his biggest gun: Jerry Taylor. He was embarrassed to do it. Taylor had 
already flown into town four times for this investigation and, as far as he 
was concerned, his work was long since finished. 

“Jerry, can you come back?” Bell asked sheepishly when he called 
Taylor in San Francisco. “We have one county attorney we want you to 
talk to, because he doesn’t buy what’s going on.” 

“Jim. There’s more goddam evidence in this bombing case than in 99 
percent of my cases. That son of a bitch should have been tried and found 
guilty by now.” Taylor had a way of getting right to the point. 

He wasn’t happy about it, but as a favor to Jim, he agreed. 

On December 1 1 , Bell and Farnsworth met with contingents from the 
county attorney’s office, ATF, the state crime lab, and the U.S. Attorney’s 
Office. It was a huge meeting but there was no mistake who the guests 
of honor were: Jerry Taylor and Bob Stott. 

As he always did, Taylor took control of the meeting, laying out the case 
in the simplest possible terms. One, all three bombs were planted by the 
same person. Two, that person had to be Mark Hofmann. It was exactly 
the presentation he would give in court, and it was a virtuoso turn, from 
beginning to end. 

When he finished, Gerry D’Elia stood up to cross-examine him. D’Elia 
was a bomb expert, too, and he went after Taylor with a barrage of 
questions that had even the old pro on his toes. If Taylor could weather 
this assault, he could handle anything Ron Yengich threw at him in court. 
Compared with Gerry D’Elia, Yengich knew nothing about bombs. It was 
a duel of wits that had everyone in the room riveted. 

Everyone, that is, except Bob Stott. 




334 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Out of the comer of his eye, Farnsworth noticed Stott squirming in his 
chair and looking at his watch. A few minutes later, in the heat of an 
exchange, he got up and started putting on his coat. The room fell silent 
with astonishment. Stott actually intended to get up and leave the meet- 
ing, a meeting that had been called especially for him, a meeting for which 
Jerry Taylor had flown into town. Then Farnsworth remembered. Every 
day at noon, Stott played racquetball. 

As Stott started to leave, Farnsworth cut him off. “Where are you 
going?” His tone wasn't friendly. 

“I have an appointment for lunch,” said Stott. 

Farnsworth moved in close. “You ain't going anywhere. We flew this 
guy in for you. Everybody else here already knows the case. You are the 
only one who doesn't understand what the fuck's going on. You're staying 
here . ” 

Stott looked at Farnsworth, then looked at his watch. Then he looked 
at his watch again. Finally, he took his coat off. “Excuse me,” he said in 
a huff. “I've got to make a phone call.” A few minutes later, he came back 
and sat down again quietly. 

When the cross-examination was finished, both Taylor and D'Elia were 
invigorated. “I want that young kid cross-examining me on this case,” 
Taylor told Jim Bell. “That's as effective a cross-examination as I have ever 
had in a courtroom on a bombing case. No better than that.” From Jerry 
Taylor, it was a hell of a compliment. But it didn't make Bob Stott very 
happy. 

Speaking to the whole group, Taylor continued. “Now I'm going to tell 
you what I can't tell you in court — my own personal opinions of Mark 
Hofmann.” 

The room was absolutely quiet. 

Taylor addressed himself to those who speculated that Hofmann's 
actions were those of a basically good man in desperate straits, a man who 
may have intended to commit suicide with the third bomb, out of guilt 
and remorse. “The idea that Mark intended the third bomb for himself," 
said Taylor, “is a bald-faced lie. If he intended suicide, if he entered the 
car with the purpose of connecting two wires and blowing himself to hell 
and gone, then he wouldn't have knelt with one knee on the seat, he 
would have gotten all the way into the car. He wouldn't have reached for 
the box with one hand; he would have reached with two hands and not 
just one but both would have been hit by the full blast of the explosion. 
In fact, his whole body would have been destroyed. 

“Mark Hofmann is not just a sweet kid in over his head, blowing 



TOTAL FAITH 335 



himself up out of remorse. He is your basic all-American serial bomber. 
He likes setting bombs. He gets off on it. I’ve dealt with hundreds of 
people just like him. I know the type.” 

He closed on a chilling note. “In fact, that third bomb won’t be his 
last. He will continue setting bombs until you catch him or until he blows 
himself up.” 

To a group of men who had lived and breathed Mark Hofmann for two 
months, it was a breathtaking display. “Now,” he said, fixing the sole of 
his shoe, which had come loose during his presentation, “if you’ve got any 
questions, just shoot.” 

Bob Stott cleared his throat portentously. As the lead prosecutor, it was, 
of course, his place to speak first. 

“Now, tell me, Jerry,” he began blankly, “do you really think the guy 
did it? What do you really think?” 



George Throckmorton had been following the Hofmann 
case with growing indignation. He had read all the newspa- 
per articles and watched all the TV reports and couldn’t get one thought 
out of his head. “I know there’s something wrong with the way the 
documents have been checked,” he told his wife, for the umpteenth time, 
after watching the umpteenth Hofmann story on the evening news, “but 
I can’t get anyone to listen to me.” 

For Throckmorton, a conscientious Mormon, that wasn’t just armchair 
speculation. Unlike most of the people commenting on TV, he happened 
to know something about documents. He was, in fact, the only practicing 
forensic document examiner in the state of Utah, the only person for miles 
around who was trained to study documents and testify about them in 
court. 

But had anybody bothered to ask him about Mark Hofmann’s docu- 
ments? 

Of course, most of his experience involved everyday documents, not 
historical ones. Once he had cracked a serial rape-and-murder case by 
matching the handwriting of a note the rapist left at the scene to the 
suspect’s handwriting. But that was unusual. Most of his time at the state 
crime laboratory was spent checking medical records to see if a doctor had 




336 THE MORMON MURDERS 



made changes to protect himself in a malpractice suit or looking for forged 
signatures on bad checks or credit-card slips. He certainly didn’t have 
much experience with historical documents. 

But he didn’t need much to know something was wrong with Hof- 
mann’s story. Simple common sense told him that one man couldn’t have 
turned up so many key documents over such a short period of time. 
Others, including Jim Bell, had harbored the same suspicions at first, only 
to be told that all the experts back East had authenticated Hofmann’s 
documents and attested to his reputation. 

George Throckmorton had heard the same thing. Only he knew better. 

He knew, for example, that those “East Coast experts” may have been 
experts in something but they weren’t experts in authenticating docu- 
ments. Most had no training or experience in forensics. In his opinion, 
some of them weren’t even equipped to authenticate a document. 

Throckmorton had tried to call attention to this travesty. Despite an 
order from his boss, the state attorney general, not to talk about the 
Hofmann case, he had hinted broadly to reporters that someone needed 
to get a qualified examiner to look at the documents in the case. As far 
as he could tell, they had never been “authenticated” in the true sense 
of the word. 

When that didn’t get any attention, he went to the sheriff’s office. 
“You should be aware that these documents have never been really au- 
thenticated,” he explained, “in spite of what everyone’s saying. Because 
I’m not sure if anyone has authenticated them who knows what he’s 
doing.” Like so many other things, his warning disappeared into the black 
hole of the sheriff’s office. 

So Throckmorton turned to the press. He called both the Tribune and 
the Deseret News, which were in a journalistic dogfight over the bombing 
story, mounting massive investigations over every crumb of gossip that 
could be conned from officialdom. But neither paper was interested in 
Throckmorton’s abstruse quibbles with the East Coast experts. 

The three top local television stations, KSL-TV, KTVX, and KUTV, 
also turned him down. In the end, only one person, Paul Larsen of Utah 
Holiday, Salt Lake City’s glossy monthly magazine, showed any interest, 
and by now, Throckmorton was too dispirited to think much would come 
of that. 

But he didn’t give up the fight. If no one else would authenticate the 
documents — really authenticate them — then George Throckmorton 
would. 

He called Dean Jessee, whom he had met the year before at a seminar 



TOTAL FAITH 337 



for the Southwest Association of Forensic Documents Examiners. At that 
time, Throckmorton discovered that Jessee, who routinely “authen- 
ticated” documents for the Church, had been educating himself to the 
task out of a single book. If that wasn’t discouraging enough, Jessee was 
now in the midst of preparing a magazine article for BYU Studies on 
“why the Salamander Letter is authentic.” 

Nevertheless, Jessee met with him at the Church library and showed 
him a copy of the Salamander Letter along with the reports that had been 
written to authenticate it. As Throckmorton suspected, the ink report 
from Albert Lyter at Federal Forensic Associates in Raleigh, North Caro- 
lina, said only that the ink was iron gallotannic and consistent with those 
in use at the time. Bill Crueger’s report on the paper said essentially the 
same thing: the paper was 100 percent rag, consistent with paper in use 
at the time. But, as Throckmorton explained to Jessee, iron gallotannic 
ink had been around since the seventh century and cotton rag paper had 
been available since about a.d. 1100, when it was introduced to Europe 
from the Orient. The paper and the ink could have been produced 
anytime within that period. They were, essentially, undatable. 

The report of Kenneth Rendell, the East Coast documents dealer, was 
even worse. “The letter was examined under ultraviolet light,” he wrote 
of his examination of the Salamander Letter, “and the ink fluoresced in 
accordance with other inks of this period.” As Throckmorton, and any 
forensic documents examiner worth his salt, knew, ink never fluoresces, 
it luminesces, and it does so under infrared light, not ultraviolet. And 
besides, gallotannic ink should neither fluoresce nor luminesce. 

Then Throckmorton researched Rendell’s involvement with the fa- 
mous, forged “Hitler diaries.” Despite what many people seemed to think, 
Rendell had waffled for a long time on their authenticity and attacked 
those, like Charles Hamilton, who questioned them. Eventually, he 
agreed they were bogus — but only after the consensus of experts had 
shifted against them. 

And this was the expert who authenticated Hofmann’s documents? 

A week later, Throckmorton was on the phone with Mike George of the 
county attorney’s office. 

“I’m not saying these documents are forged, all I’m saying is that they 
need a serious looking into.” 

Like everybody else, George thought it sounded like quibbling. “Jeez,” 
he said, like everybody else. “You’ve got authentic paper, authentic ink.” 

Throckmorton tried to be patient. “Listen,” he said. “I could go out 



338 THE MORMON MURDERS 



and find ‘consistent’ paper right now, and I could make ‘consistent’ ink 
in the bathroom. And all you have to do to make ink look old is to bake 
it in an oven.” 

That got George’s attention. Maybe this was worth looking into. He 
asked Throckmorton to come down and give his pitch to the prosecution 
team. 

When he arrived in the war room on the third floor of the county 
attorney’s office, everyone was sitting around the big conference table 
reading copies of Utah Holiday. Paul Larsen’s article had just come out. 

After talking to Throckmorton, Larsen had contacted Dean Jessee, who 
stood by his earlier assessment that the Salamander Letter was authentic, 
but added, “I’m not an expert. I’m not a forensic document examiner. 
I’m not qualified to testify in court. It’s my personal opinion. That’s all.” 
When Larsen pressed him on why he thought the document was authen- 
tic, he fudged, claiming that he wanted to save his reasons for the paper 
he was writing. 

Then Larsen called Rendell in Massachusetts to get a fuller explanation 
of his “authentication” of the letter. Rendell was instantly defensive. “I 
don’t think forgery is a possibility,” he said peremptorily. “Mark Hof- 
mann, for example, is too sophisticated to try that.” 

Rendell added that, as far as he knew, the police had long since given 
up looking into the Salamander Letter as a motive for the bombings. “The 
deal was completed on it over a year ago. Everybody seemed happy with 
it.” 

But not Larsen. “How do you authenticate a document?” he pressed. 

“We look at the paper it’s written on, the ink used to write it, and the 
handwriting,” Rendell explained. “The paper and ink are tested to see if 
they are of a type that was actually in use at the time the document was 
supposed to have been created.” From what Throckmorton had told him, 
Larsen knew how much that was worth. 

And what about the handwriting? “I did not authenticate that the 
document came from Martin Harris’s hand,” said Rendell. “That would 
have been impossible with what little I had.” Dean Jessee had told Larsen 
that Harris left behind precious little of his handwriting for comparison 
purposes, just a few signatures and one short note, maybe fifteen or twenty 
words long. And where was that note? In a Book of Common Prayer that 
had been sold to the LDS Church by Mark Hofmann. 

Rendell concluded: “All my report said was that the handwriting was 
consistent with the handwriting of the time and that there were no signs 



TOTAL FAITH 339 

of forgery. 0 It was hardly the ringing authentication that the press had 
made it out to be. 

When Larsen asked Jeff Simmonds, Hofmann’s old mentor at Utah 
State, what he thought of the Salamander Letter, he didn’t mince words. 
"I think it’s a forgery,” he offered enthusiastically. “It’s too pat.” But he 
didn’t think Mark had forged it. He guessed it was a nineteenth-century 
forgery by anti-Mormons trying to discredit the Church. 

Larsen wasn't so sure. His article didn’t directly accuse Hofmann of 
forgery, but it did raise some scratchy questions, speculating that the 
Salamander Letter and other Hofmann documents might have been part 
of a larger scheme to defraud the Church with even more spectacular, 
more controversial forgeries. 



It should be asked whether these pieces might be a prelude to some other 
great discovery — the 116 pages of the Book of Mormon, which Martin 
Harris lost while he was a scribe for Joseph Smith and which appear in his 
own handwriting. Hofmann has indicated to several people that he had an 
interest in finding this lost manuscript. If forgeries exist, were they ends in 
themselves or were they meant to be used as the samples against which 
other more valuable documents might be compared? Did the limitations on 
authentication of the salamander letter create an opportunity for forgery? 
Was the inexperience of Mormon scholars with that process of authentica- 
tion a temptation to test it? These are speculative questions, but they are 
the sort which must be posed in a thorough investigation. 

After reading that, the men sitting around the table in the county attor- 
ney’s office greeted the arrival of the tall, thin, academic-looking Throck- 
morton like the Second Coming. They took one look at his reassuringly 
grizzled, graying beard and hired him on the spot. 

Throckmorton said he needed two things. First, the original docu- 
ments. He couldn’t work from photocopies. Second, he needed a part- 
ner — a non-Mormon partner. “If I can prove these documents are forger- 
ies, there will be a lot of people who say I am just protecting my Church 
by tarnishing documents that are against the faith.” 

Not that he doubted his own objectivity even for a second. He couldn’t 
have cared less what was in the documents. He hadn’t read them and 
didn’t plan to. When he looked at a document, it was one letter at a time. 
It was the appearance of objectivity he was concerned about. 

The man he chose was William J. Flynn, the chief questioned-docu- 
ments examiner for the state of Arizona and one of the most highly 



340 THE MORMON MURDERS 



regarded forensic specialists west of the Mississippi. It didn’t hurt that he 
was also president of the Southwestern Association of Forensic Docu- 
ments Examiners, and the director of a private forensic laboratory. Of the 
233 documents examiners in the United States, Flynn, who had handled 
a staggering fifteen thousand cases over the years, was the cream of the 
cream. Throckmorton was taking on the big boys back East, and he knew 
he needed all the help he could get. 

“I have just one question,” he told Flynn when they talked on the 
phone. “What religion are you?” 

Flynn, who knew almost nothing about the case, thought it was an odd 
question. “I’m not practicing,” he replied, “but I’m a Catholic.” 

“That’s perfect,” said Throckmorton. 



Flynn understood the question a lot better when he ar- 
rived in Salt Lake City for a brief visit on December 17. 
Throckmorton met him at the Holiday Inn off 1-15, the one with the 
indoor pool that Flynn would never get to use, and drove him directly 
to a meeting on Temple Square. The Church wanted to look him over. 

Dallin Oaks was there, along with other top brass, the new Church 
archivist, Glen Rowe, and the by-now unavoidable lawyers. At first Flynn 
thought the purpose of the meeting was to turn over the documents, but 
there were no documents in sight. 

The real purpose of the meeting was quickly made clear. The Church 
wanted to know what Throckmorton and Flynn intended to do to their 
prized possessions. As they pointed out repeatedly, this was an unprece- 
dented situation. They were being asked to open the Church vault to 
outsiders, to people beyond their bureaucratic control, to a non-Mormon, 
no less. Not that they trusted Throckmorton any better. His attacks on 
Mark Hofmann and his documents were, by now, well known, and they 
didn’t please the Church. Someone accused Throckmorton of “picking 
on” Hofmann. 

The mood was not friendly. 

How did they plan to test the documents? Would the tests damage the 
documents in any way? Would they be handled with appropriate care by 




TOTAL FAITH 341 



a Gentile? From their skeptical faces, Flynn got the feeling “they thought 
I was going to dump these things in grape juice.” 

The Church’s dilemma was clear. As later described by a Mormon in 
the county attorney’s office, “It was damaging enough to think that the 
documents were genuine and that the first leader of the Church might 
have been nothing more than a con man who duped the faithful. But it 
would be even more damaging if the documents turned out to be forger- 
ies, and the current leaders of the Church had been duped by a con man.” 

Caught between a rock and a hard place, the Church reached for its 
favorite defense: secrecy. They agreed to let Throckmorton and Flynn 
look at the documents, but they were determined that absolutely no one 
else should see them. 

That meant that under no circumstances could the two examiners make 
photocopies, or copy down the contents of the documents. 

It meant the documents could not leave the Church premises. Throck- 
morton and Flynn would be given a conference room in the historical 
library. The locks would be changed, and they would be given the only 
two keys. 

It meant that they would have to enter and leave the room together. 
Neither one would be allowed to stay in the room alone. 

It meant that the documents would be brought to them every morning 
in a locked briefcase and returned every night to The Vault, where the 
briefcase would be handcuffed to a pipe so that it could not be opened 
again until the next day. 

The Church lawyer who was doing most of the talking repeated again 
and again: “We don’t want these divulged. We don’t want the writing 
disseminated.” 

Throckmorton couldn’t understand the paranoia. All of the documents 
they intended to review had already been published in Dean Jessee’s book, 
The Letters of Joseph Smith. But when he repeated that, three times, the 
lawyer didn’t seem to hear him. “I have to protect Hinckley,” he kept 
saying. “I have to protect the Church.” 

They began work the next morning at eight, laying out their equipment 
on a huge wooden table in an ample conference room on the third floor 
of the Church Office Building. Flynn had brought his portable infrared 
equipment as well as some test plates. Throckmorton brought the micro- 
scopes, the ultraviolet equipment, measuring devices, and miscellany. 
They arranged everything around the table in stations until the place 
looked, according to Flynn, “like a mad scientist’s laboratory.” The plan 



342 THE MORMON MURDERS 



was to move the documents from one station, one machine, to the next. 
Documents examiners were nothing if not methodical. 

The Church provided them with five documents, including the Anthon 
Transcript, the Josiah Stowell letter, and a letter from Joseph Smith to 
the Lawrence sisters. The RLDS Church sent the Joseph Smith III 
blessing, and Brent Ashworth contributed the Lucy Mack Smith letter, 
the Martin Harris letter, and another letter written by Joseph Smith from 
the Carthage Jail. In addition, the Church provided a number of docu- 
ments by the same authors that had not come through Hofmann's hands, 
for purposes of comparison: in all, eighty-one documents. Despite re- 
peated requests, however, the FBI refused to surrender the Salamander 
Letter. 

They worked for four days straight, from eight in the morning until 
eight at night, leaving only occasionally for Flynn to get a cup of coffee — 
he was shocked to discover that none was sold in the building. Despite 
a bank of windows in the conference room, they never saw the sun; it 
rained the whole time. 

They put every document through what they called the “round 
robin," starting with the infrared machine, which was equipped with a 
camera that took pictures directly through the infrared apparatus. Be- 
cause infrared radiation reacts differently to different chemical compo- 
sitions in different inks, it was easy to spot any later additions to genu- 
ine documents. 

At the microscope station, they checked for signs of alteration, oblitera- 
tion, abrasive or chemical erasure, and any anomalies that would betray 
the date or region of manufacture. They looked to see how the paper had 
been cut. They could tell the difference between a cut made with a razor 
blade, with scissors, or with a paper-cutting machine. They could tell how 
the paper had been manufactured, how the ink had spread into the paper 
over time, and whether there were any fox marks (oxidation spots). 

Then they compared the handwriting with other examples from the 
same writer that had not come through Mark Hofmann's hands. Using 
a rigorous set of seventeen tests, they looked for such things as lift points, 
pressure points, embellishments, and the relationship to the base line. The 
handwriting in a single document took as many as three hours to analyze 
thoroughly. 

Almost from the start, little things bothered them. Under the micro- 
scope they noticed that on some of the documents, the ink had cracked 
into tiny scales — they called it “alligator skin" — invisible to the naked eye. 
Since neither man had worked with old documents before, they assumed 



TOTAL FAITH 343 

it had something to do with aging but couldn’t imagine why it would 
affect some documents and not others. 

The handwriting in the Josiah Stowell letter looked too elegant for a 
messy writer like Joseph Smith, ‘if all you can play on the piano is 
‘Chopsticks/ ” Flynn told Throckmorton, “you can pound on the keys 
with your fists but you can’t play Mozart. If you only have a certain degree 
of skill, you can always write worse, but can never write better.” 

The letter that Smith had supposedly written from the Carthage Jail 
wasn’t on the same kind of paper as two other letters Smith wrote the 
same day, letters that had been lent by the RLDS Church. What were 
the chances that a man in jail would have access to two different paper 
stocks on the same day? 

And something was wrong with the Anthon Transcript. If the ink used 
to make the characters was so acidic that it burned through the paper and 
left reverse images on the other side, why didn’t it leave similar ghost 
images on the pages of the Bible where it had lain, supposedly, for more 
than a hundred years? And why was the inscription in that Bible written 
in one ink, and the signature — which proved it belonged to the Smith 
family — in another? Why were several different inks used in one docu- 
ment, and why had the date on another been changed from 1722 to 1822 ? 

But all this only suggested that a few of the documents might be forged, 
in whole or in part. Even if true, it didn’t tell them when they were forged 
or who forged them. They would have to wait and pursue that when Flynn 
returned in January. 

On the day Flynn left for Arizona, a Church delegation led by Gordon 
Hinckley visited the conference room. They looked suspiciously at all the 
equipment while Throckmorton and Flynn explained the process. They 
asked some questions but, to Flynn’s astonishment, never asked the most 
obvious question of all: Are the documents genuine? 

Not that he could have answered. Their tests to date had shown no sign 
of systematic forgery by Hofmann or anybody else. Sure there was a 
signature added here, a line removed there, but in any group of eighty-one 
historical documents, you were likely to find some anomalies. Most of the 
documents looked surprisingly “right.” The paper, even on the doctored 
documents, looked genuine. The ink looked genuine. The writing instru- 
ments looked genuine. The handwriting looked genuine. They all seemed 
to have aged the appropriate length of time. The only unanswered ques- 
tion was the nagging one about cracked ink. 

Maybe the East Coast experts had been right all along, Flynn thought. 

But there was another explanation, admittedly a bizarre one, and he 



344 THE MORMON MURDERS 



tried it out on Throckmorton as they drove to the airport on Decem- 
ber 20. Was it possible that someone had gathered the old paper, the 
old ink, the old writing instruments and then artificially aged all the 
documents? 

Nah, he concluded, jumping out of the car. Impossible. 



On Christmas Eve, the gang met again in the county at- 
torney’s office: Ted Cannon, Bob Stott, Jim Bell, Ken 
Farnsworth, both national and local ATF men, representatives from the 
FBI, even Brent Ward, the U.S. attorney, and Pete Hayward, the 
county sheriff. At least twenty men in all, few of them friends. Hayward 
still wasn’t speaking to Cannon; Brent Ward wasn’t speaking to Bob 
Stott, at least about this case. The police were furious with Hayward for 
copping out of the Sheets investigation; the ATF men were furious with 
Ward for copping out on the explosives charge. The county attorney’s 
office was angry at Ward for locking them out of the grand jury pro- 
ceedings, and Stott was angry at everybody for trying to push him into 
filing charges before he was good and ready. In short, the meeting was 
noticeably lacking in holiday cheer. 

One more time, the investigators summarized the evidence. Then they 
repeated their plea: Won’t somebody please file charges against Mark 
Hofmann? 

No one had to ask Sheriff Hayward where he stood. For months, he 
had been telling everyone, especially the press, what he thought of Ted 
Cannon’s office. “Those guys aren’t prosecutors. They aren’t prosecuting 
the case.” 

Not too long before, D’Elia had visited Hayward’s office only to be 
greeted by a hail of verbal abuse. “How stupid can you guys be? When 
the hell are you going to file? What’s it going to take? You can’t imagine 
the public pressure that’s on us to have this case filed. The county attor- 
ney’s office doesn’t know what the fuck is going on. You gotta file this 
case.” 

D’Elia took his coat off and dropped it, a gesture with a clear message: 
“If you want a fight, I’ll give you a fight.” He wasn’t the kind to “take 
shit” from anybody, even Hayward. 




TOTAL FAITH 345 



“Listen,” he yelled back. “Two weeks after the bombing, you and your 
men had already pulled out. I can’t even get your men to do anything. 
They’re not even in there with the investigation. It’s total uncooperation. 
You’re sitting here, doing nothing, and you’re telling me to file. You go 
out there and get the damn facts and maybe I’ll file it. You don’t have 
a case yet, you don’t have a motive yet.” It was a full-scale screaming 
match by now. 

Hayward ended on a threat. “I’m sending my detective over with the 
papers tomorrow, and I’m gonna have him screen this case in front of you. 
And then I’m gonna call the press and tell them.” 

D’Elia wasn’t an easy man to intimidate. “Fine,” he said, stalking out 
of the room, “but you tell your man to bring a kick-out letter with him 
tomorrow morning.” Hayward got the message: a kick-out letter was the 
form a prosecutor signed when he officially refused to file a case. 

All eyes turned to Brent Ward. He looked completely uninterested in the 
proceedings. Someone asked if he would file separately on the bomb 
charge. 

Not a chance. At first, his argument was technical. “We would have 
to get an exception to file simultaneously on the bomb charge,” he 
explained. “Your filing would oust us from jurisdiction.” Not everyone 
understood the details, but they understood the bottom line. 

“Besides,” Ward added nonchalantly, “nobody has convinced me that 
we have the right person. How do we even know we don’t have the wrong 
guy?” 

There was a long stunned silence. 

Duffy Diamond broke it. “Who’s fucking side are you on, anyway? 
Who are you working for here, for Christ’s sake, the fucking defense 
counsel?” 

“I’m the devil’s advocate,” Ward offered lamely. The time for devil’s 
advocacy was long, long past. 

When no one jumped to support him, Ward scurried to explain. “We 
need to find where the bombs were made. We need to go down other 
avenues, talk to other witnesses.” Bell and Farnsworth looked at each 
other in astonishment, thinking of the hundreds of witnesses they had 
already spoken to. But Ward went on. “We need things that you don’t 
have any prospect of getting. Mostly physical evidence.” Like the fake 
mustache , for instance. “The man in the elevator was wearing a mustache. 
Where is the fake mustache?” Unless the police could get a lot more 
information than he had seen, Ward would not file, and if the county 



346 THE MORMON MURDERS 



attorney’s office did, they would be “walking into an absolute disaster.” 
A disaster that, if it failed, would reflect badly on all of them. 

In other words, it wasn’t really a question of guilt or innocence, or even 
of good law enforcement or bad. In the final analysis, it was a question 
of P.R. 

Then and there, it was clear to everyone that Brent Ward was signing 
off on the case. For a man with political ambitions, it was just too hot to 
handle. (Colleagues who saw Ward after Christmas said he looked “as if 
four hundred pounds had been taken off his shoulders.”) 

That left only the county attorney, Ted Cannon. 

This time, to everyone’s astonishment, he gave the go-ahead. First thing 
after Christmas, he said, his office would file charges. 

Then Bob Stott spoke up. He didn’t think it was the right time. “We 
can’t do that,” he said. “How’s it gonna look? Here it’s been two or three 
months, and then, all of a sudden, between Christmas and New Year’s, 
we go ahead and do it. That’ll look stupid.” Or, even worse, vindictive — 
an attempt to destroy the Hofmann family’s holidays. 

So the filing was put off until January sometime, and everyone, includ- 
ing Mark Hofmann, spent Christmas at home. 



Flynn wasn’t scheduled to return to Utah until January 7, 
but he couldn’t wait that long to return to work. While the 
rest of Phoenix sweated through last-minute shopping and hung Christ- 
mas lights on the cacti, Flynn buried himself in the literature on antique 
ink. For some reason, he couldn’t get one question out of his head. Why 
the cracking? 

He canvassed the libraries and called every forensic expert he knew 
hoping to find someone else who had experience with cracked ink. He 
examined the stampless covers that the county attorney’s office had sup- 
plied him with. No cracking. He called a friend at the FBI labs in 
Washington and asked for all the information he had on iron gallotannic 
inks. No reference to cracking. 

There was only one thing left to do: make his own ink and see if he 
could get it to crack. 




TOTAL FAITH 347 



Making it was easy. Anybody could do it in the kitchen sink. The 
formula was available in several places, including Charles Hamilton’s book 
Great Forgers and Famous Fakes. Teaching himself how to cut quill pens 
from turkey feathers was harder. (Although not as hard as locating turkey 
feathers in Phoenix. He finally found them in an Indian supply store for 
$1.50 apiece.) 

Once he had made up a fake document, he had to age it. Iron gallotan- 
nic ink, like iron, rusts with age. The trick to aging ink was to speed up 
this oxidation process. One way to do that was to apply heat — simply to 
bake the document. Flynn tried it, and succeeded in aging the ink from 
black to a rust-brown color, but in the process, aged the paper dramati- 
cally. Instead of remaining supple like Hofmann’s documents, it turned 
dry and brittle. In aging the ink a hundred years, he had aged the paper 
a thousand. And still no cracking. 

So he tried speeding up the oxidation process chemically, using oxidiz- 
ing agents like oxalic acid, which he had seen mentioned in the literature. 
That aged the ink all right, but it also took it off the paper. Sodium 
hypochlorite, nitric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, and hydrogen 
peroxide were equally unsuccessful. When he tried ammonium hydroxide 
(common household ammonia) and sodium hydroxide, the ink turned a 
lovely shade of rust-red, but there was still no cracking. 

He decided to stick with the ammonia and change the ink, mixing up 
several batches using different additives common in the nineteenth cen- 
tury. One of those additives was gum arabic, a form of complex sugar used 
to preserve and improve the viscosity of ink. When he exposed the gum 
arabic solution to the sodium hydroxide, the ink once again turned the 
requisite reddish-brown color. Then he put the sample under the micro- 
scope and saw what he’d been waiting for. The ink had cracked. 

When Flynn and Throckmorton reunited in Salt Lake City on January 
7, they had only one thing on their minds. They wanted another look at 
the documents. Even with all the work that had been done, there were 
still important unanswered questions: Which documents showed the 
cracking? What other circumstances — besides gum arabic and artificial 
aging — might explain the cracking? For example, the Church routinely 
deacidified documents that came into its archives. Or was there some- 
thing about the way they were stored? 

It wasn’t long before they started getting answers. 

First, they realized that they had seen the cracking only on Hofmann’s 
documents. It had to be more than a coincidence. 



348 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Throckmorton tested the theory. “Hand me a document and don’t tell 
me where it came from/’ he told Flynn. After looking at it under various 
instruments, he announced, “This one came from Mark.” 

“Right” 

He examined a second document. “This one didn’t come from Mark.” 

“Right again.” 

Then a third document. 

“Hofmann?” 

“Right again.” 

They started putting the documents into two stacks, one stack for the 
documents that showed the cracking, Hofmann’s stack; and one for docu- 
ments that showed no cracking. Before long, they were both feeling cocky. 

Flynn handed him another document, and Throckmorton pronounced 
it “Mark’s.” 

Only this time it wasn’t. 

Suddenly their theory didn’t look so good. They could have understood 
it if a document from Hofmann had not shown the cracking and had been 
genuine. It only made sense that some of Hofmann’s documents were 
real. But to find a document that did show cracking but didn’t come from 
Mark blew a gaping hole right through the middle of their theory. 

Then it happened again. Another document that didn’t come through 
Hofmann showed the cracking. 

They tried to pass it off as a minor glitch. Throckmorton started a third 
pile with the two documents, but said to himself, “This theory doesn’t 
hold water.” 

That night he took the two documents to Glen Rowe, the Church 
archivist, and asked him to check again on where they came from. Who 
donated them to the Church, and where did the donors get them? 

The next day Rowe came by to say that both documents had been 
donated to the Church by the same man. And he had gotten them both 
from Mark Hofmann. 

A day later, they found the clincher. It looked harmless enough, a simple 
promissory note made out to one Isaac Galland and signed on the back 
by Joseph Smith. Only when Throckmorton and Flynn looked at it under 
the microscope, they discovered a curious thing. The ink on the front was 
not cracked. The ink on the back was. The same piece of paper, stored 
under the same conditions, deacidified in the same way, and yet one side 
was cracked and the other wasn’t. Clearly, the signature had been added 
and, like all the other documents with cracking, artificially aged. 

And it came from Mark Hofmann. 



TOTAL FAITH 349 



Ken Farnsworth was visiting friends in Los Angeles when 
Jim Bell phoned from Salt Lake City on February 3. The 
county attorney’s office had called Bell and told him to be at their offices 
at seven the next morning. No explanation, just be there. 

No explanation was needed. Bell knew why they wanted him there, 
which was why he was calling his partner. “They won’t tell me what 
they’re doing,” said Bell. “So you and I both know what they’re doing.” 
It was that son of a bitch Stott. “Hell, if you can’t trust the guy who’s 
a detective on the case,” Farnsworth sputtered, “who do you trust? 
What’s the point?” 

He flew back that night at ten. 

The next morning at seven Farnsworth showed up at the county attor- 
ney’s office. Bob Stott was more than a little surprised. 

“I don’t appreciate being left out of the arrest,” Farnsworth snarled at 
Stott. Then he found out that they had also left his name off the informa- 
tion. He demanded to know why. 

“Well, we were just gonna let Jim sign it because we didn’t know you 
were gonna be here,” said Stott, squirming. 

It was all Farnsworth could do to keep from slugging him. “That’s 
bullshit. This case is assigned to me. The Christensen murder is specifi- 
cally assigned to me, and it’s my responsibility to sign a complaint. I’m 
gonna put my name on it. You got a problem with that?” 

Stott fumbled for a few seconds then finally came out with it. “Well, 
you know that Mark and his family and Ron think that you haven’t looked 
at anything else. All you’ve looked at is Mark. And they think that it’s 
real, that you’re real prejudiced.” 

Prejudiced! Farnsworth was livid. Who the hell was running this case, 
the law enforcement agencies or Mark and his family? He shot Stott a 
black look. “Hey, pal, I’m not going away on this case. I’m part of it. No 
choice, I’m here. You got me whether you like it or not. I don’t care.” 
He pointed at the information. “So you change that puppy right around, 
right now. I’m not going back to my department and say, ‘Hey, they took 
my name off my own case because they don’t want me on it.’ ” 

Stott’s mouth twitched. It was a standoff. Finally, he looked away. 




350 THE MORMON MURDERS 



“Okay, for you, we'll put your name on it." So they added Farnsworth's 
name to one of the informations, the one that listed the two counts of 
murder. Two of Stott's investigators, Dick Forbes and Mike George, 
signed the other three. 

That defused the situation, but it didn't leave Farnsworth feeling any 
better about it. Stott had kicked him in the teeth, and it still smarted. 
“Mark doesn't like you," he repeated to himself. “Bullshit." It wasn't 
Hofmann. It was Stott. 

Bell, Farnsworth, Forbes, George, and D'Elia took the paperwork to 
the chambers of Judge Paul Grant in the county court building for 
signing. When they were finished, Bell said, “Let's go to jail." Hofmann 
had denied them the pleasure of hauling him in. He had agreed to come 
to the jail on his own. The five of them would go wait for him there. 

On the way across the plaza to the Hall of Justice, the two investigators 
stopped. “Look," said Mike George to Bell and Farnsworth, “this is you 
guys' case. All we've been doing is helping. It's your deal. You guys go and 
book it." If anybody deserved to be in on the arrest, it was George and 
Forbes, thought Farnsworth, so he persuaded them to come along. But 
it was a class gesture. 

Bell and Farnsworth walked through the main floor of the Hall of 
Justice and out the other side. Because of construction in the building, 
they would have to take one last detour. Standing on the other side of the 
parking lot at the entrance to the booking room, they could see Channel 
2 reporter Rick Schenkman and his cameraman. They looked around. 
That was it for press. And Schenkman didn't even notice them. Just as 
they were entering the tunnel that led to the booking room, they heard 
him call out to his cameraman, “Hurry, get the picture of that guy over 
there!" He was pointing at Gerry D’Elia. So they walked on, uninter- 
rupted, with the arrest warrant in their hands. 

At the end of the tunnel, the garage door opened in front of them. They 
passed through the electrically controlled security gate and into the long, 
concrete booking room lined with the iron bars of holding cells. At the 
far end of the room, on a bench next to the booking window, sat Mark 
Hofmann. 

Sheriff Hayward and Lieutenant Ben Forbes were also there, but it was 
Bell and Farnsworth who approached Hofmann and said, “You're under 
arrest." 

Filling out the booking sheet took only fifteen minutes. But it was still 
a high. Farnsworth heaved a sigh of relief. “Finally, we got the little prick 
in jail." 



TOTAL FAITH 351 



# # * 

Later that day, they drove to Centerville to explain the arrest and proba- 
ble-cause statements to Terri Christensen. For the first time, they saw her 
new baby, now almost one month old. Knowing he would be a caesarean, 
Terri had chosen to have him delivered on January 9— on what would 
have been Steve's thirty-second birthday. She named him Steven. 



PART FIVE 



Contending 
with Lucifer 



Now it was the prosecutors’ turn to approach Gordon 
Hinckley. 

Bob Stott must have prayed this day would never come, but by late 
March, he could no longer avoid it. Church functionaries like Don 
Schmidt could testify at the preliminary hearing about most of the docu- 
ments Hofmann had sold the Church, and Hugh Pinnock could take the 
heat for Dallin Oaks on the McLellin Collection, but only two people 
knew about the Joseph Stowell letter, Mark Hofmann and Gordon Hinck- 
ley. 

Ironically, Stott had assigned himself the documents side of the Hof- 
mann case, allowing him to control — some said contain — the Church’s 
involvement. Now, as the prosecutor in charge of the documents scam, 
he was leading his team into the sanctum sanctorum of Church power, 
Hinckley’s paneled offices. 

Before they even sat down, Hinckley asked the first and most important 
question: “Are you members of the Church?” 

David Biggs answered, “Yes. But I’m not a particularly good one.” He 
wasn’t sure if Hinckley heard him, he seemed so preoccupied with picking 
up “vibrations.” He was, after all, first and foremost a spiritual man with 
the Lord’s business on his mind — and a lawyer, Wilford Kirton, at his 
side. 

Stott explained that they needed to know more about Hinckley’s meet- 
ings with Mark Hofmann. In particular, they needed to know what kind 
of pressure Hofmann might have been under to produce the McLellin 
Collection. Was it the kind of pressure that might lead to murder? 

Hinckley looked at them with a Mom Lisa smile. Far from putting 
pressure on Hofmann, he said, he only vaguely remembered. Mark Hof- 
mann. 

Stott and Biggs shifted uneasily in their chairs. Mike George, the 
investigator from the county attorney’s office who had accompanied Ken 
Farnsworth on the last interview of Hinckley almost four months before, 
marveled at how, with all the time in between to recollect those meetings, 
he still couldn’t remember a thing. 

“Was he ever in your office?” Stott asked. 




355 



356 THE MORMON MURDERS 



“Probably,” said Hinckley. 

Probably ! thought Biggs. Now he was even forgetting what he had 
admitted in the press conference. 

“Have you ever bought anything from him yourself?” 

“Not directly. A couple of documents may have come through me, but 
only as a vehicle by which the Church made the purchases.” 

They tried, ever so gently, to refresh his recollection. 

Surely he remembered the morning, only days before the bombings, 
when Hofmann came to tell him the Kinderhook plates “might be avail- 
able for the right price”? He did remember the Kinderhook plates? 

“I don't know a whole lot about them,” Hinckley said dryly. 

George thought, This is Hinckley. He's telling us he doesn't know a 
whole lot about the Kinderhook plates. My God, even I have learned a 
little about them in this investigation. He has to know what they're about. 
They're a big thing in Mormon history. 

In a show of cooperativeness, Hinckley walked to his bookshelf, pulled 
out a book and began to read a passage about the Kinderhook plates as 
if it were all news to him, like a person who has just heard an interesting 
word for the first time and wants to look it up — just out of curiosity. 

Stott and Biggs pressed. Surely he knew that Steve Christensen had 
been called by Church officials at all hours of the night to go out and find 
Hofmann and get him to repay the First Interstate loan? 

Hinckley shrugged his shoulders. 

Surely, he knew that phone calls had flown back and forth from the 
Church Office Building and that Christensen was pounding on doors all 
over Salt Lake City? Surely this indicated that the Church was bringing 
pressure to bear? 

Hinckley could recall nothing. 

No matter how evocatively they painted the picture of those last desper- 
ate days, Hinckley could recall nothing. 

Biggs decided it was time to push a little harder. One thing that had 
always amazed him, he began innocently, was why no one had investi- 
gated the documents the Church bought from Hofmann, not really inves- 
tigated them, not checked their provenances, for example. True, Hof- 
mann, like many documents dealers, kept his sources confidential, but the 
Church had never even tried to verify its purchases. And yet it was 
spending tens of thousands of dollars on these documents. 

Biggs wanted to ask: Were these the actions of parties who barely knew 
each other? Is it credible that you would put that much trust in someone 
whom you knew only “vaguely”? But he decided instead to ask only half 



CONTENDING WITH LUCIFER 357 



the question, “How is it that you felt comfortable relying on Mr. Hof- 
mann as a sole basis for purchasing these documents?” 

Hinckley looked him in the eye. “We relied on Mark Hofmann’s 
integrity,” he said gravely. “If we were deceived, then it’s to his eternal 
detriment.” 

Wow, thought Biggs. Heavy stuff. But hardly responsive. 

They tried another approach. As per Joseph Smith’s instructions, every 
good Mormon is supposed to keep a detailed daily diary of his or her 
activities. Over the years, the Church’s leaders had been extraordinarily 
conscientious in obeying that injunction. So they asked to see Hinckley’s 
diary entries for his meetings with Mark Hofmann. “I don’t keep a diary,” 
Hinckley responded quickly, as if he were prepared for the question. 

After another hour of evasions, memory lapses, and sermonettes, Biggs 
lost his patience. “President Hinckley. This has been in the news — people 
have died — isn’t there any way we can get some information about your 
meetings with Hofmann?” 

Hinckley couldn’t contain his indignation. “This is the least of my 
concerns,” he huffed. “I am an extremely busy man. I have worldwide 
concerns. Mr. Hofmann is a postscript ...” he reached for the rest of the 
phrase, “. . . in the walk of life.” 

You wish, thought David Biggs. 

When Bob Stott finally worked up the courage to talk about Hinckley’s 
testimony at the upcoming preliminary hearing, Wilford Kirton jumped 
in. 

“President Hinckley doesn’t wish to testify at the hearing. We think 
it would be in everyone’s best interests to not have him testify.” 

Someone suggested that he would have to testify at trial. 

You don’t understand, said Kirton imperiously. President Hinckley 
does not wish to testify at the hearing, at the trial, at anything. 

Even Stott had to be outraged. This was putting him, as a devout 
member of the Church, under wholly unacceptable pressure. 

Hinckley had obviously wanted to stay out of this discussion, but it was 
clear from the prosecutors’ reaction that nothing less than his personal 
intervention would calm the furor that Kirton’s comments had unleashed. 
So he decided to give another sermonette, this one on the subject of 
“priorities.” He sat down with Stott as a father would sit down with a 
wayward son. 

“This isn’t that significant, as it relates to Church matters,” he said 
softly. “It’s the Church that matters. You have to consider the Church 
first. I don’t wish to testify.” 



358 THE MORMON MURDERS 



This time Stott said nothing. 

But that wasn't all Hinckley wanted. “I think it would be in the best 
interests of the Church," he added in the same mellow voice, “if you 
simply dismissed the charge." 

Dismiss the charge? Biggs and George were aghast. It took them a 
moment to realize that he meant only that Stott should dismiss the charge 
on the Stowell letter, which would let Hinckley off the hook as far as 
testifying at the preliminary hearing. 

Despite the months of investigation, Stott, Biggs, and George still had 
only the vaguest idea of how much Hinckley had to lose if Mark Hofmann 
told all in open court, or even if the complete details of his relationship 
with Hinckley came into the open. They knew nothing of the forces at 
work within the ranks of the General Authorities to oust Hinckley from 
power for his failure of vision, his failure to see the trap that Hofmann 
had laid for him. If Church conservatives were to read the full details of 
his misadventures in newspaper accounts of a trial, the consequences for 
him — apart from the consequences for the Church — could be catas- 
trophic. He could disappear from the upper reaches of power or, even 
worse, of the Celestial Kingdom. 

More fervently than the prosecutors could have imagined, Gordon 
Hinckley must have wanted to say “dismiss the charges" on all of Hof- 
mann's crimes. Close the public record, lock him away or buy his silence, 
put the matter to rest. Make him, as quickly as possible, “just a postscript 
in the walk of life.” 

But Bob Stott wasn't ready to do that. “We are not going to drop the 
charge," he said after he regained his composure. But he did have a 
compromise suggestion. “If we can get the defense to stipulate as to your 
testimony, we won't have to call you. But if they won't stipulate, and if 
we think it's important for you to testify, you will have to testify." 

As they left the room, Biggs slapped Stott on the back. He knew that 
couldn't have been easy. 



CONTENDING WITH LUCIFER 359 



The preliminary hearing began on April 14, 1986, in the 
midst of an early-spring heat wave. It would have led the 
news stories in both local papers if Ronald Reagan hadn’t ordered an air 
raid on Libya the night before. And some people were surprised that even 
that knocked the biggest local story out of the lead spot. 

Ron Yengich and the Hofmann family had been shouting Mark’s 
innocence from the media rooftops for three months, and most of the 
press and public believed them. It had taken so long for anyone to file 
charges that when they finally did, many people figured the police were 
just trying to cover their backside: pinning the crimes on Hofmann be- 
cause they had to pin them on somebody. 

It was only a preliminary hearing — a proceeding before a judge to 
determine if the evidence warranted a trial — but there was nothing pre- 
liminary about the media hoopla or the police security precautions. The 
circuit court building swarmed with uniforms. There were guards in every 
comer of the courtroom, guards at the doors, guards in the halls, guards 
downstairs, guards upstairs, guards in the bathrooms. Spectators passed 
through a metal detector both on entering and on leaving the courtroom. 
Briefcases, purses, camera bags, rolled-up newspapers, everything was 
checked. Those who wanted to avoid the search had to listen to the 
proceedings on loudspeakers set up in an anteroom. Ron Yengich argued 
that because Hofmann was innocent, the real killer was still out there and 
Mark was still a target. Police said they feared an attack by some crazed 
Mormon, mad at Hofmann for hoodwinking Church leaders. Most people 
thought Yengich ’s explanation sounded more likely. 

Paranoia, like spring, was in the air. After technicians from KSL fin- 
ished installing the wiring system in the courtroom, several detectives on 
duty wondered, seriously, if the men from the Church-owned station 
might have secretly arranged to transmit the proceedings directly to 
Church headquarters. 

The day before the hearing, Jim Bell had left a message with Yengich’s 
secretary. “Tell him that if Mark wants a bulletproof vest, the police 
department will provide one free of charge. We’ll be happy to bring it 
over to him, and he can keep it through the entire proceeding.” 




360 THE MORMON MURDERS 



It was an especially strange offer given that Hofmann, free on bail, had 
been seen in local restaurants dressed in nothing more protective than a 
T-shirt emblazoned with a white salamander. 

Circuit Judge Paul G. Grant entered the courtroom and strode to his 
place in the corner behind an altar-like dais of blond oak. He was a huge 
man, with cowboy boots showing beneath his tent-size black robe. The 
fifty or so spectators, half of them press, who filled the padded pews of 
the stark, concrete courtroom, quickly settled down. Grant stepped up on 
the dais and slumped his vast frame into a big leathery chair. Everything 
about him seemed huge: hands, feet, head, eyes, even his glasses. 

At six-feet seven, Grant was used to being the center of attention. He 
had presided over the preliminary hearings in the Ted Bundy, Ervil 
LeBaron, and Frances Schreuder cases. After the last, he had lost his taste 
for high-profile cases and generally let the younger judges take them now. 
If he wanted attention, he would say, all he had to do was show up at 
church with his twelve children, most of whom were also more than six 
feet tall. 

A devout Mormon and former bishop, Grant brushed off questions 
about his ability to sit in judgment on a case that involved the Church 
so deeply. Every judge brings some baggage to the bench, he would say; 
at least he was honest about it. Just in case, though, he had sounded out 
Ron Yengich on the issue. Yengich assured him that he felt Hofmann 
could get a fair hearing in Grant’s courtroom. 

In fact, the only thing that really bothered Grant about the trial was 
that it threatened to interfere with the basketball season. 

“I have perceived that it’s going to get warm in this courtroom,” Grant 
announced in his comforting, avuncular voice. “So I will invite everyone 
to take off their coat and not suffer through this.” 

Bruce Passey, the co-owner of a jewelry manufacturing firm on the third 
floor of the Judge Building, took the witness stand first. He looked like 
a man who spent most of his time indoors doing close work: pale, balding, 
slightly overweight, bespectacled. Early on the morning of October 15, 
he had stood in the foyer and ridden up in the elevator with a man wearing 
a green letter jacket and carrying a brown package addressed to Steve 
Christensen. 

Gerry D’Elia questioned him. “Did you notice anything with respect 
to any kind of glasses on this individual, hearing aid, anything of that sort, 
that you would recognize?” 



CONTENDING WITH LUCIFER 361 



“No eyeglasses.” 

“How about facial hair? Did you notice anything about facial hair?” 
“He was not clean-shaven.” 

“Would that be a beard?” 

“Well, more of a five-o’clock shadow, as if he hadn’t shaved for the 
morning.” 

“I am going to show you, Mr. Passey, what’s been marked Proposed 
Exhibit No. 2. I’m holding it up, for the record, and showing you the front 
of it, and then showing you the back of it, and then putting it up right 
in front of you. Are you able to recognize that jacket, Mr. Passey?” 
“Yes.” 

“From where?” 

“That was the color of the jacket that was on the fellow that was in 
the foyer.” 

“How about the remainder of the jacket? The sleeves are gray on that, 
are they not?” 

“Yes.” 

“You originally described the sleeves as being a light tan color. Is that 
correct?” 

“Yes.” 

“Why the difference between your original description of tan sleeves 
and the gray sleeves right now?” 

“Because the light in the foyer; they use a little bit dimmer light.” 
“Now, with respect to the person that you saw in the elevator and in 
the foyer of the Judge Building in the lobby on October 1 5, 1985, are you 
able to recognize that person again?” 

“Yes.” 

“Do you see that person in the courtroom today?” 

“Yes.” 

“For the record, would you indicate where that person is seated and 
point out the person and tell us what the person is dressed in?” 

Passey pointed to Hofmann. “He is sitting next to Mr. Yengich wearing 
glasses and a blue suit.” 

On cross-examination, Yengich tried everything to impeach Passey’s iden- 
tification. “Did you say whether or not he was wearing glasses?” 

“He was not wearing glasses.” 

Yengich smiled. “I note that you wear eyeglasses.” 

“Yes.” 

“Were you wearing them on that morning?” 



362 THE MORMON MURDERS 



“Yes” 

‘Tm nearsighted/' Yengich confessed congenially. “What’s yours?” 
“I'm nearsighted also.” 

“When is the last time you had your eyes checked, sir?” 

“About a year and a half ago.” 

And what about the mustache, Yengich wanted to know. 

“I said I was not 100 percent sure on the mustache.” 

“The composite does have a mustache on it?” The composite had been 
based partly on Passey's original description to the police. 

“Yes.” 

“It's easily identified as a mustache? You would agree with me on that, 
wouldn't you?” 

“Yes.” 

On the letter jacket, Yengich circled warily. Reading from the notes that 
Detective Johnson had taken at the time of Passey's original description 
of the letter jacket, Yengich said, “It goes on to say, ‘with dark brown 
leather sleeves.' ” Not just brown, but dark brown. It was easy to mistake 
light gray for light tan, but light gray for dark brown? “Is that correct?” 
“No, I did not tell him dark brown.” 

“Is that what it says on State's Exhibit 4?” 

“It does say it, yes.” 

“But your testimony today is that you did not tell the detective that?” 
“No, sir.” 

“The detective must have been in error when he put dark brown leather 
sleeves. Is that correct?” 

“Correct.” 

As for the identification of Hofmann, Yengich wanted to suggest that it 
was based not on Passey's own recollection of the encounter in the eleva- 
tor but from what he had seen in the media. 

“Do you take either newspaper, either daily, in Salt Lake?” 

“Yes, sir.” 

“Have you seen any photographs of him in those papers?” 

“No, sir.” 

Yengich hadn't expected that answer. “You have not? Why is that, 
sir?” 

“Because ever since the bombing, I saw him the first time they put him 
on television, and then, after that, I just quit watching. I don't read the 
paper anymore.” 



CONTENDING WITH LUCIFER 363 



If there was anything Yengich hated, it was a witness who knew how 
to protect his testimony. “You don’t read the paper at all anymore?” 
“No, sir. If I do, it’s more the sports page or the Wall Street section.” 
“You don’t watch any of the TV news?” 

“If anything comes on about it, I just turn the opposite way or think 
of something else. I do not watch it.” 

Later that day, D’Elia called to the stand Margene Robbins, a recep- 
tionist in Tom Wilding’s office. Hofmann had visited the office on the 
morning of the bombings. 

What time did he come in? D’Elia asked. 

“Well, it was probably about 9:15 or something.” 

“How was Mr. Hofmann dressed?” 

“He was wearing a green fabric, a green fabric jacket that had gray 
leather sleeves and a striped knit collar.” She recognized it because her 
son had a letter jacket very much like it. “Except,” she added, her son 
“didn’t wear it after he was out of high school.” 

“Have you seen any other men over thirty wearing an Olympus High 
School jacket without a letter on it, to your recollection?” 

“No.” 

Janet McDermott, a businesswoman in her mid-thirties with the large 
eyes and high cheekbones of a fashion model, took the stand next. She 
had been across the hall when the bomb exploded in Steve Christensen’s 
hands. In the audience, Terri Christensen told herself she was prepared 
to listen. Two days before, Ken Farnsworth had visited her at home to 
warn her about McDermott’s testimony. “She will be saying that she 
thought Steve was alive when she came out into the hall,” he had said, 
“that she heard Steve crying.” Farnsworth wanted to reassure her that the 
testimony was both ugly and inaccurate. He swallowed hard and explained 
that what McDermott thought was crying was probably just air being 
released from the lungs. The medical examiner would testify that Steve 
had died instantly. Farnsworth wrote in his notes that Terri handled the 
explanation “pretty well.” 

McDermott testified she heard an explosion and crouched down be- 
hind her desk. 

“What did you think when you heard that?” asked Gerry D’Elia. 

“1 was very scared. I thought that if there was somebody out in the 
hallway, that they would know for sure I was there.” 

“Did you hear anything at that time while you were over at the desk?” 
“Yes, 1 did.” 



364 THE MORMON MURDERS 



“What did you hear? 1 ' 

“A very high-pitched crying/' McDermott began to cry. 

In the audience, Terri Christensen braced herself. 

“When you opened your door of 610 Judge Building, what did you 
see?" 

“Steve Christensen was laying on the floor." 

“Where was he?" 

“He was partway in his office, partway out in the hallway." 

“Did you see any wounds on Steve Christensen?" 

“Yes." 

“What were the most extensive wounds that you saw that caught your 
attention?" 

“His entire chest was bloody." 

“How about the noises that you had heard from inside your office? Did 
you ever hear them again once you got to your door and looked at Mr. 
Christensen?" 

“They were coming from Mr. Christensen. They were much deeper by 
now." 

Terri Christensen put her head down and began to cry as softly as she 
could. She had thought she could handle it. “I want to know everything," 
she had said two days before. “I want to be there." But she didn't really. 
She believed what Farnsworth had told her about Steve dying instantly, 
and she was prepared for McDermott's story — intellectually at least. But 
the image, true or false, caught her unawares, and the tears just came of 
their own accord. 

Only a few feet away, close enough to hear her crying, Bill and Dorie 
Hofmann sat stone still. 

Throughout the testimony, Steve Christensen's younger brother, Scott, 
sat in the courtroom staring at Mark Hofmann. Only occasionally did his 
eyes stray briefly to the witness or to a piece of evidence being admitted. 
No one would have guessed that the handsome, sandy-haired, burly young 
man with vengeance in his eyes was, in another world, a sweet-tempered, 
easygoing family man. But then, no one could have guessed how much 
his brother had meant to him. 

At the end of the day's session, one of the officers assigned to watch 
the courtroom approached Ken Farnsworth with a worried look. “Watch 
the big guy," he said ominously, pointing at Scott Christensen. “He's 
going to kill Mark. He's going to get up and go over and beat the fuck 
out of him." 



CONTENDING WITH LUCIFER 365 



Gerry D’Elia circled the next witness for a long time before 
asking his first question. He wanted the judge, the media, 
and the audience to look long and hard at a man whose life had been 
shattered by Mark Hofmann. 

“You were married to Kathleen Sheets?” 

“Yes.” Gary Sheets shifted in the witness chair looking uncharacteristi- 
cally nervous. 

“For how long?” 

“Twenty-seven years and a few months.” 

“How many children did you have in total?” 

“Four.” 

“And the names, besides, I think, Gretchen, and Jimmy, that I can 
recollect?” 

“Kathryn Robertson and Heidi Jones.” 

“How old is Gretchen?” 

“She’s twenty.” 

“How old is Jimmy?” 

“Jimmy is fifteen.” 

“How would you describe Kathy’s relationship with the family?” 
“She was her grown daughters’ best friend. Two or three times a week, 
I would come home at night, and Kathy would come up and say, smiling 
at me, we have got all three grandchildren tonight, which meant tending 
them. Her children and her grandchildren were her life and her love, and 
me. We had a very close family.” 

In the audience, Jimmy, Gretchen, Katie, and Heidi, along with their 
Aunt Joan, listened to their father’s testimony and relived the pain with 
him. Like everything in their lives for the last six months, it was an ordeal, 
but this one they welcomed. 

For months after the bombing, Gretchen couldn’t walk down stairs 
without thinking something terrible would happen. Every time she 
opened the dryer, she closed her eyes and waited for the explosion. She 
wouldn’t go near the mailbox. One day, she opened the front door and 
saw a big cardboard box from AT&T. She just looked at it in terror and 
shut the door again. Eventually, she worked up the courage to kick it a 




366 THE MORMON MURDERS 



few times, then Jimmy poked it with a long pole. It turned out to be 
telephones. 

When Gretchen went to give blood, the nurse recognized her name. 
“Oh, you’re not related to that Gary Sheets are you?” 

“Yeah, that’s my dad.” 

“Well, I don’t think that Mark Hofmann is guilty.” 

Then one day Katie took Danny, her nephew, to a hamburger place. 
They were about to sit down when she saw Mark and Dorie in the next 
booth. Her mother was dead, and her murderer was sitting there eating 
a hamburger and fries. She took Danny’s hand and left. But that did little 
to ease the anger and she brooded for days. 

Now, finally, it was Hofmann’s turn to suffer. This was his ordeal. And 
they wouldn’t have missed it for the world. They had spent so many 
months hating him and hating the thought that they were suffering and 
he wasn’t, that Kathy was gone and he was free. 

The next morning, Ron Yengich cross-examined Gary Sheets. 

Since the bombings, Sheets had been at the center of a storm of rumors 
accusing him of everything from adultery to homosexuality. One of the 
more fantastical versions involved a sordid love triangle between Sheets, 
Steve, and Terri Christensen. Another story making the rounds as the 
hearings began was that Gary and Kathy had been involved in an ugly 
divorce at the time of the bombings and that Gary had since remarried. 
The point of the stories was always the same: Sheets himself had killed 
his wife — and maybe Christensen — either in a jealous rage or in order to 
make room for some other liaison. 

They were outrageous lies, but Yengich had to use what was available. 
He had heard the rumors — some suspected the defense team had gener- 
ated its share of them — and he knew they could support at least one red 
herring. In a case heavy on circumstantial evidence and weak on motive, 
it took only one red herring to hang a jury. 

“You considered Steve to be a very bright young man?” Yengich asked. 

“Extremely so. The brightest in the company.” 

“And he voiced to you his concerns about directions that CFS was 
taking. Is that a fair statement?” 

“Yes.” 

“But they never boiled over into any arguments or anything such as that 
between you?” 

“No.” 

“Not even the type of argument that a father and son might have — is 
that correct?” 



CONTENDING WITH LUCIFER 367 



“No.” 

“And so any dispute between you and Steve at that point would have 
been, again, coupled with the genuine affection that you held for him — is 
that correct?” 

“I think so. But I don't think we really had disputes.” 

Sheets was making it easy for him. As Yengich knew, Christensen had 
had many serious disputes with his boss, in front of witnesses, as the CFS 
ship sank. But all that would come out at trial. It was enough just to 
suggest it here. 

Yengich floated another red herring. 

“Having been in the insurance industry for a period of time — and you 
did consider Steve Christensen to be an important part of J. Gary Sheets 
& Associates — correct?” 

Sheets: “And CFS.” 

“And CFS — is that correct?” 

“Yes.” 

“Was Mr. Christensen insured by either of those companies?” 

“Just by CFS.” 

“And was that insurance policy still extant at the time of his death?” 
“Was it still what?” 

“Did it still exist at the time of his death?” 

“Yes. We bought some buy-sell insurance on all of us in the early part 
of '85.” 

“Who was the beneficiary of that?” 

“CFS.” 

“Has that been paid?” 

“That has been paid.” 

“What was the amount of that insurance?” 

“Five hundred thousand.” 

On redirect, D'Elia made bouillabaisse of Yengich's red herring. 

“Now, with respect to the insurance on Mr. Christensen, that is known 
as a key-man policy, isn't it?” 

“That's right.” 

“And is that customary for CFS, and other corporations that you have 
ever been a part of, to have this on key men within the group?” 

“Yes. We were far too long in coming to do that. We felt, for a few 
years before, we needed to have key-man insurance. Just slow getting 
around to it.” 

D'Elia asked if CFS was “the sole beneficiary of that key-man insurance 
policy.” 



?68 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Sheets: “That’s right.” 

“And has that all gone to the bankruptcy?” 

“Yes.” 

“Have you received any part of that insurance policy?” 

“Personally?” 

“Yes.” 

“No.” 

“I don’t have anything further. Thank you.” 

When Aaron Teplick, a curly-haired thirteen-year-old with a serene, 
Buddha-like face, took the stand, his head barely showed over the witness 
box. The microphone was set as low as it would go and it still pointed at 
his forehead. 

But nothing fazed Aaron. 

Before the hearing, D’Elia and Ken Farnsworth had prepared him for 
this moment. 

“Do you know how important you are to this case?” Farnsworth asked. 

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Aaron offhandedly, as if he had been asked 
what he wanted for lunch. 

“Do you know why this is so important?” 

“Does Mark Hofmann have a van like that?” No doubt about it, Aaron 
was a smart kid. 

Teplick Senior was more of a problem. D’Elia and Farnsworth spent 
more time reassuring Aaron’s father, Dr. Stanley Teplick, than Aaron. 
Would testifying against Hofmann expose his son to any danger, he 
wanted to know? 

“The crisis is over,” D’Elia assured him. “Mark isn’t going to go out 
and blow up everybody who testifies. There are just too many of them. 
Besides, he can’t even walk.” 

From deep inside the witness box, Aaron repeated, in the same calm, 
assured voice, his account of the night of October 14 when he saw a van 
pull up in front of the Sheets house off Naniloa Drive. 

“I looked through the Levolor blinds and saw some lights coming down 
the drive. It was going quite slow. ... It was a gold-colored Toyota van, 
a Wonder Wagon. . . .” 

When he was finished, Farnsworth, who was sitting in the courtroom, 
wanted to stand up and applaud. 

Like D’Elia, Yengich knew how unreliable child witnesses could be, how 
easily discredited. And if ever a witness needed to be discredited, Aaron 
Teplick was it. 



CONTENDING WITH LUCIFER 369 



“Aaron, have we ever met before?” Yengich adopted a pleasant, avun- 
cular tone that he used often if never entirely convincingly. 

“No” 

“Okay. Just shook hands out in the hallway — is that correct?” 

“Yes.” 

“Introduced myself to you — right? You don’t have any problem an- 
swering my questions, do you?” 

“No.” 

“Have you ever been down to a Toyota dealership and looked at the 
books that they have about these vans?” Yengich wanted to get Aaron to 
admit that the police had manipulated him into identifying the van as a 
Toyota. After all, doesn’t one van look more or less like any other to a 
thirteen-year-old? Especially in the dark. 

“Not the books,” Teplick answered. “I’ve seen them in magazines.” 
“In magazines.” Teplick was certain it was a Toyota because he knew 
the differences between various vans. At that moment it became clear to 
everyone in the courtroom, especially Yengich, that Hofmann had had 
the misfortune to drive by a young car buff that night. 

“Did the police officers, at any time, actually take you and show you 
a van, an actual van?” 

“Yes.” 

“When was that, son?” 

“It was after I drew the diagram and the picture and everything.” 
Thirteen-year-old Aaron Teplick knew exactly what Ron Yengich was 
driving at. 

Yengich quickly changed course. “And you described it [to the police] 
as a gold van, right?” Yengich had discovered that Toyota listed Hof- 
mann’s van as “copper.” 

“Yes.” 

“That was the phrase you used — is that correct?” 

“ ‘A gold Toyota Wonder Wagon’ was the phrase I used.” Aaron was 
a match for Yengich. 

“A gold Toyota Wonder Wagon. And you meant, by gold, you meant 
gold in color — right?” 

“Right.” 

“Now, you know the difference between the color gold and the color 
copper, don’t you?” 

“Yes.” 

“What color is a penny?” 

“Copper.” 

“Is that copper color to you?” Yengich asked, holding up a penny. 



370 THE MORMON MURDERS 



“Yes.” 

“What color is this?” He held up a gold wristwatch. 

“Gold.” 

“For the record, 1 have a 1983-D penny and my law partner’s watch.” 
Yengich sat down with a satisfied look on his face. 

But in the back of the courtroom, Ken Farnsworth was also smiling. He 
knew what Yengich didn’t, that a representative of Toyota had already 
submitted a statement that the Wonder Wagon didn’t even come in gold. 
It came only in copper — whatever you called it. D’Elia knew it too. Holy 
shit, he thought to himself as Yengich sat down, are you in for a big 
surprise when we go to trial. 

After Aaron Teplick’s testimony, Jim Bell noticed a change in the press. 
In the lobby outside the courtroom later that day, he was approached by 
a TV reporter who had proclaimed Hofmann’s innocence loudly and 
often during the long months of investigation. “Well, do you think he’ll 
plead guilty now?” the reporter asked eagerly. “There’s no question what 
the kid saw.” 



The last person to testify that day was an attractive woman 
in her early twenties. She gave her name as Kelly Maria 

Elliott. 

“Kelly, directing your attention to the month of October of 1985,” 
D’Elia began, “where did you work?” 

“Radio Shack.” 

“And where is the location of that Radio Shack?” 

“Cottonwood Mall, Highland Drive.” 

D’Elia sensed some movement at the defense table. He had already 
noticed that Yengich didn’t have the case under control, that he hadn’t 
begun to read all the thousands of pages of materials the county attorney’s 
office had dumped on him in the last two months. Could it be, D’Elia 
wondered, that the defense hadn’t read the report on this witness yet? 
That they didn’t know what she was going to say? That only Hofmann 
knew what she might say? 

“And now, directing your attention, Kelly, to the 7th of October, 
1985,” he continued, “were you working on that day?” 




CONTENDING WITH LUCIFER 371 



"Yes/’ 

"Do you remember what day of the week that happened to be?” 
"Monday.” 

D’Elia approached her with a copy of a Radio Shack receipt. "And do 
vou recognize that receipt?” 

"Yes.” 

"What is it a receipt for?” 

"Battery holder, a small switch, and lamp.” 

"Now, the battery holders, what size battery holders are they? To fit 
what size battery?” 

"A C-cell ” 

"And now, on this date, do you remember making this sale to any 
individual?” 

"Vaguely.” 

"Do you remember anything about the individual . . .” Again, he heard 
shuffling at the defense table, Mark scribbling something on his pad, 
perhaps, ". . . the name that they gave to you?” 

“Mike Hansen,” said Elliott. She spelled it. 

"What do you remember, if anything, about the actual transaction 
that day, Kelly? First of all, do you remember what time of day it 
was?” 

"Probably in the afternoon.” 

"Why do you say that?” 

"Mornings are usually very slow.” 

"And do you recollect anything else about that actual transac- 
tion?” 

"Just the merchandise that was purchased.” 

"Why do you recognize that merchandise?” 

"Because it is not a common switch, and it is not common to buy the 
switch and battery holders at the same time.” 

"Now, you have worked at Radio Shack for a year and a half. How 
many mercury switches like that have you sold to any individuals at any 
time?” 

"Maybe a dozen.” 

"And how many C-size battery holders had you ever sold two of to any 
individual in either Decatur, Illinois, or here in Salt Lake City?” 
"Including this situation, maybe twice.” 

"And how many times have you ever sold a mercury switch like this 
along with two C-size battery cell packs at Radio Shack during your entire 
year and a half experience?” 



372 THE MORMON MURDERS 



"This is the only one 1 can recollect.” 

D'Elia moved in closer to the witness stand. "Now, do you remember 
anything about the individual who purchased these items?” Out of the 
corner of his eye, he could see the defense table "tighten.” It was a 
physical movement, unconscious, of course, everybody pulling closer to- 
gether, wincing collectively. Clearly, they feared that this woman could 
identify the man who bought the C-cell battery packs and mercury switch 
from her on October 7, that she was going to wheel around on the witness 
stand and point her finger at Mark Hofmann. Of course, if Yengich had 
done his homework, he would have known, as D'Elia did, that Elliott 
couldn't make a positive identification. This will teach him to read the 
summaries we send him, thought D’Elia. 

Through all the testimony so far, Hofmann had played the great stone 
face, his expression never changing from the fleshy ennui of a bored 
choirboy. Now D’Elia saw a chance to make him sweat. 

He stepped back to include both Hofmann and the witness in his line 
of vision. "Would you ever be able to make an identification of that 
individual again?” he said slowly, separating his words with pauses and 
waving his arm to encompass the entire courtroom. 

"Possibly,” said Elliott. Great response, D’Elia thought. 

"Possibly?” he repeated. "How about looking around the courtroom 
right now. . . 

At that moment, Hofmann looked away. He squirmed around in his 
chair and actually looked away as D’Elia watched in astonishment. His 
face turned pink, and he tugged at the collar of his shirt. For the first time, 
he looked scared. 

D’Elia finished his question as slowly as he could, "Would you take a 
look around the courtroom and see if you can recognize anybody that is 
either similar or not.” 

Elliott dutifully scanned the courtroom from left to right, saving the 
defense table for last. Fortunately for Hofmann, Yengich had positioned 
him so that he was partly hidden from the witness stand by a lectern that 
the lawyers used. If he hunkered down in his chair, Kelly Elliott might 
hardly see him at all. 

And with D’Elia staring right at him, that's exactly what he did. Trying 
not to be noticed, he began to slink lower beneath the defense table. 
While Elliott looked from face to face, still on the other side of the room, 
taking her time, Hofmann began to disappear from view. 

The courtroom was absolutely quiet. 

Oh, God, thought D’Elia, he thinks he's going to be identified this 



CONTENDING WITH LUCIFER 373 



time, and he's going down. The next sound D'Elia expected to hear was 
that of “everything dropping into his pants.” 

Finally, Elliott looked back at D'Elia. “I don't see anyone.” 

And Hofmann sighed. For the world to hear, he actually sighed. 



Judge Grant was looking at Kelly Elliott at that moment 
and missed the drama at the defense table. He had already 
conclusion that Hofmann was a tough nut, an emotional 
cipher. Normally, he could tell from a defendant's posture when a witness 
said something that was true but was disputed by the defense. He could 
see what he called “aspects of denial” either in the body language or, if 
the defendant was a particularly hard case, in the eyes. But not with Mark 
Hofmann. As far as Grant could see, Hofmann had given away nothing. 
The only other person he had ever had in court who was that way was 
Ted Bundy. “If Hofmann is guilty,” he said to himself, “then he must 
have no value system in any way, shape, or form.” 

Ken Farnsworth was one of the multitude of people watching Mark 
Hofmann closely. Because Jim Bell was scheduled to testify as a witness 
and therefore couldn't attend the hearings prior to his appearance, Farns- 
worth sat through the early sessions, watching Hofmann's reactions and 
thinking about his interview with Eric Nielsen, the police psychologist. 

In March, Farnsworth had asked to see him. He wanted to know as 
much about Hofmann's mind as possible. Like any good cop, Farnsworth 
had a sharp instinct for people and their motivations, but if Ron Yengich 
ever let him interview Mark, he wanted to be sure to “ring all the right 
bells.” 

The meeting took place at Farnsworth's dilapidated bachelor pad in a 
peeling turn-of-the-century house northeast of downtown, furnished spar- 
ingly with a weight-lifting machine, an antique Chinese carpet, a small 
dining table, and the piquant odor of cat litter. A huge safe stood in the 
bedroom. It held all of Farnsworth's guns and shooting medals. 

Nielsen, who had lost an eye (and a fast-track career as a professional 
soldier) in the Vietnam War, listened as Farnsworth reviewed the facts 
of the case. Then he offered his opinion. “Mark sounds basically like the 



90 

come to the 



374 THE MORMON MURDERS 



classic sociopath, although he doesn't show the vicious aggressiveness that 
most sociopaths show." 

It was the pressures on Hofmann at the end — from Wilding, from the 
Church, even from his wife in regard to the new house — that had trans- 
formed him into “a sociopath out of control." 

“My general sense is that we are dealing with a paranoid personality 
disorder," Nielsen explained. “His fondness for his children would not 
suggest psychopathology. Also, he's methodical. He is capable of very 
long-term planning, which is atypical of psychopaths. Psychopaths tend 
not to think about the consequences of their actions. 

“Often, when people think of a paranoid personality disorder, they 
think of the suspiciousness. With Mark, suspiciousness isn't the salient 
feature in his personality. Grandiosity is the salient feature. He really 
thinks he is a superior person. And he obviously is bright, bright enough 
to pull off a number of things." 

For Nielsen, that explained why Hofmann wore the letter jacket when 
he delivered the first bomb to Steve Christensen's office, an action that 
seemed uncharacteristically stupid. “He had come to believe that he could 
get himself out of anything," said Nielsen. “This is just speculation. But 
he was a solitary kind of kid, who probably retreated a lot into fantasy. 
Since he never belonged to a group of kids, he probably retreated more 
and more into his grandiose fantasies." 

And what about his bizarre relationship with the Mormon Church? 
Why the elaborate scam and the forgeries discrediting the Church, an 
effort that, in the end, didn't net him very much money? 

“Among his grandiose fantasies were some that involved his parents," 
said Nielsen. “I think he's real ambivalent about his dad. I think that, if 
anything, his effort was probably to destroy something in the long run that 
was of tremendous value to his dad, to discredit the Church, that is, and 
thereby to shake his dogmatic beliefs. And also to assume the dominant 
position in their relationship. 

“In a way, the Church hierarchy became a symbol for his father, so in 
harming the Church officials, he was also harming his father." 

That's why Nielsen thought the third bomb was intended for Hugh 
Pinnock. “Pinnock was intimately involved in bringing all the pressure to 
bear on him. Obviously, Mark was trying to take out people whom he saw 
as sources of stress. It sounds as if it was related to the fact that he was 
being replaced by Steve Christensen. He was no longer going to be the 
Church's finder of rare and controversial documents, Christensen was." 

Suddenly, it was all obvious, Farnsworth thought — as if Nielsen had 



CONTENDING WITH LUCIFER 375 



opened up a window on the impenetrable darkness of Hofmann’s motiva- 
tions and let in a shaft of sunlight. The third bomb had to be for Pinnock. 
What better way to shut down the McLellin deal and get the creditors 
off his back? If a bomb had exploded in the First Presidency building, no 
one would have ventured out for a month. The media would have gone 
mad. It had to have been for Pinnock. Nobody else could have given 
Hofmann that much “bang for the buck.” 

Nielsen didn’t think that ten to twenty years in prison would do anything 
to improve Hofmann’s personality. “That personality type doesn’t get any 
better. If anything, a prison environment will just solidify that paranoia.” 

Why did Mark keep up the facade of being a good Mormon, going on 
a mission and attending church? “1 suspect he went on a mission, not 
because be wanted to, but because the failure to go would have put him 
in direct conflict with his father, which he preferred not to do. So he did 
that under a fair amount of resentment.” 

Nielsen speculated that the legal proceedings could only exacerbate 
tensions within the family. “I think that’s likely in any family, but I think 
that members of the LDS Church are more likely to get goodness and 
family wrapped up together. Family is part of the route to heaven, if you 
will. If somebody in the family does something bad, it reflects on the 
whole family. It erodes the eternal family. So a wayward child tends to 
pull the family down together.” 

As for Hofmann’s anger at his father: “It’s hard to know. He may have 
been compliant but pissed off all the time. He may have expressed it all 
internally. Or he may have acted it out in a fantasy life. It got acted out 
symbolically in the end.” 

Farnsworth asked about an incident that had been bothering him ever 
since it came up on a routine police check following the third bombing. 
On January 8, 1981, after the discovery of the Anthon Transcript, after 
he was established in the documents business, Hofmann had been ar- 
rested for stealing a 76? bag of sliced almonds from Smith’s Food King 
on East Sixth Avenue. Why would he risk exposure and ridicule for a 76? 
bag of nuts? 

“Sociopaths get a kick out of doing illicit things,” said Nielsen. “They 
do them just for the thrill of it. Like a lot of things he did, Mark may have 
done it for the kick of getting away with it. 

“In the end, I think his grandiosity got the best of him. He lost his 
ability to harness it and to restrain it. He started to do things that were 
just too risky, thinking things like, T could wear my letterman’s jacket, 



376 THE MORMON MURDERS 



plant a bomb, and walk out, and nobody's going to remember me.' 

“But,” Nielsen added cautiously, “one thing is absolutely clear, and 
that is, Mark is never going to tell you what was going on inside Mark. 
He will tell you about the brilliance of his actions, but nothing about his 
motivations. He will tell you what he did , but he will never tell you what 
he thinks. ” 

The next day, Jim Bell took the stand. 

Gerry D’Elia led him methodically through the mountain of evidence 
that had been accumulated in six months of investigation. Bell described 
arriving at the Judge Building on the morning of October 15, described 
the bomb scene, the position of the victim's body, the condition of the 
doorway. He identified photographs of the body and the scene that were 
taken at the time. 

“Is this an accurate representation of the wounds you saw when you 
first entered the Judge Building on the morning of the 15th?” D’Elia 
asked. 

“Yes, it is.” 

Then began the laborious process of identifying the evidence, begin- 
ning with the diagram Bell had drawn at the scene on which the location 
of each piece of evidence was carefully marked. 

“Were you in charge of the scene as far as collecting the evidence at 
the Judge Building, Detective Bell?” 

“Yes, I was.” 

D’Elia showed him the first batch of plastic bags, each with its own 
number — C-l, C-10, C-20, C-34, etc. — corresponding to its location on 
Bell’s diagram. Together, they were State’s Proposed Exhibit No. 41. 

“What these are, are items of all types of batteries that were removed 
from the Steve Christensen bombing scene at the Judge Building. They're 
battery tops and batteries.” 

“What size batteries are they?” 

“C-cell.” 

Next came State’s Exhibit No. 43, pieces of the cardboard box that 
contained the bomb. Then No. 46, including bits of wire, an Estes rocket 
igniter, and a mercury switch. Then No. 45, which contained item C-33A, 
a three-inch glass vial. 

“What is in the vial within that package, Detective Bell?” 

“This is a carpentry nail. Those were the type of nails that were in the 
bomb in the Judge Building and were scattered throughout the whole 
building.” 



CONTENDING WITH LUCIFER 377 



“About how many nails did you happen to find scattered throughout 
the building as a result of the explosion?” 

“I didn’t totally count them. It got so ridiculous, I just quit picking 
them up after a while. 1 would guess somewhere about a hundred or so, 
a hundred and fifty.” 

“Where did that specific nail come from?” 

Bell looked at the package. “This specific nail came out of Mr. Chris- 
tensen’s body at the autopsy.” 

“What part of his body?” 

“His head, his brain.” 

Bell looked directly at Hofmann. He had determined in advance that 
he was going to look at Hofmann as much as he could while on the stand, 
especially when he described the gruesome evidence at the site of Steve 
Christensen’s death. Like everybody else, he wanted to elicit some reac- 
tion from that fleshy mask. 

“Now,” said D’Elia. “Would you open up the packet and take out 
C-179.” Bell pulled from the packet a mangled, nine-inch piece of twisted 
steel. When he first saw it, he had called it “the ugliest-looking weapon 
1 ever saw as a policeman.” He held it up in front of him to make sure 
the entire courtroom got a good look — especially Mark Hofmann. 

“What is that, Detective Bell?” 

“This right here is a piece of pipe that was removed from Mr. Chris- 
tensen’s chest.” 

A faint gasp, more like a change in air pressure, swept the room. Joan 
Gorton and Kathy Sheets’s children covered their eyes in a reflex of 
anguish. Terri Christensen gathered her things, clinging to her compo- 
sure, and walked quickly from the room. 

Bell looked at Hofmann. His eyes had glazed over, his chest was heav- 
ing, his body had gone rigid, his neck had tensed till the tendons stood 
out, his knuckles went white, his mouth slacked open. Suddenly Bell 
realized what was happening — and others in the courtroom later con- 
firmed it. “Did you see Mark?” Jerry Taylor asked him at the next 
adjournment. “When they showed that piece of pipe, he had a goddam 
orgasm!” 



378 THE MORMON MURDERS 



Later in Jim Bell’s testimony, D’Elia returned to the elusive 
Mike Hansen. 

Bell recounted how, on the morning of October 18, he had sent agents 
to canvass the local Radio Shack stores in search of receipts for the 
components used to make the first two bombs. 

“Did you receive a report from any of them at any time?” asked D’Elia. 

“Yes. Agent — Sergeant — Larry Stott of the Salt Lake Police Depart- 
ment and Agent Jim Thompson from the ATF in Sacramento, who had 
been here in Salt Lake, had called in to the police department and 
informed us that they had located a receipt where a person had purchased 
a mercury switch and a battery pack and the address was bad and the name 
on that receipt was M. Hansen.” 

The same day. Bell had obtained a search warrant for Mark Hofmann’s 
house. 

“Who was in charge of the execution of the warrant?” 

“I was.” 

D’Elia approached the witness stand with State’s Proposed Exhibit No. 
63. “I’m going to ask you just to take that from the packet and tell us 
whether you can identify what’s in there or not.” 

“Yes, this is the mike hansen envelope that was located in Mr. Hof- 
mann’s house.” 

“Where in the box in the southeast basement bedroom was it that you 
saw that? ” 

“It was laying right on top. . . .” 

“What else was in that box?” 

“There were documents on Mormon history. Mormon religion.” 

“Now, when you specifically seized this envelope, No. 63, why did you 
seize it?” 

“Because prior to going in there, we’d heard of M. Hansen, who had 
purchased the mercury switch and the battery pack, and that’s Mike 
Hansen and that’s why it was taken.” 

“Now, this Radio Shack receipt that you originally referred to, Detec- 
tive Bell, that the Mike Hansen was on, did you ever have a subsequent 
opportunity to see that Radio Shack receipt?” 




CONTENDING WITH LUCIFER 379 



“Yes, I did.” 

“And there was an address on it?” 

“Yes, there was.” 

“Did you ever go to the address . . . ?” 

“Yes.” 

“And what did you find?” 

“I found a vacant field and a parking lot.” 

After lunch, David Biggs resumed the questioning. He handed Bell the 
envelope with mike hansen written on it. “Is there something else on that 
envelope, some other writing that was there, previous to it being seized?” 
“In the center here, it says it was mailed to Utah Engraving at 231 
Emerson Lane, Salt Lake City.” 

“Did there come a time when you visited Utah Engraving?” 

“Yes, on March 3rd of 1986.” 

On that day, Ken Farnsworth and David Biggs had gone together to the 
small shop on Emerson Lane, a tiny back alley between First and Second 
East, and talked with the owner, Julius Andersen, a seventy-year-old 
Dane. Andersen served as honorary consul to Utah from both Denmark 
and Sweden and proudly displayed a huge Royal Danish seal on his office 
wall. Given half a chance, he would lapse into stories about trips to his 
native land and hobnobbing with its royalty. 

Farnsworth showed him the envelope that they had found in Hof- 
mann’s basement with the name mike hansen written on it. Andersen 
looked at it and said immediately, “Jorgen wrote that.” 

He introduced them to Jorgen Olsen, a short, blunt man, who darted 
around the shop like a mechanical figure in an eccentric old clock. An- 
dersen had imported him from Denmark some time ago but had taught 
him pitifully little English in the years since. 

As soon as Olsen saw the envelope, he pointed to it and said something 
in Danish. “Oh, yeah, 1 wrote that,” Andersen translated. To prove it, 
Olsen wrote out mike hansen several times in the same capital letters. 
It meant that Olsen had, at some point, made a plate for this man named 
Mike Hansen. 

Farnsworth and Biggs searched through boxes and boxes of Andersen’s 
receipts, which were stored in no particular order, but came up empty. 
“Maybe we can find the negatives,” Andersen suggested helpfully. 
“When do you think these plates were done?” 

Farnsworth and Biggs had no idea. 



380 THE MORMON MURDERS 



The negatives were stored in huge photographic boxes, each containing 
thousands of negatives, six months’ worth to a box, again in no particular 
order. They asked for everything from October 1984 through April 1985 
and settled down for another interminable search. 

Farnsworth lifted the lid from the first red-and-yellow box and looked 
glumly at the massive pile of black films. He picked up four or five, looked 
at each on a light table, then tossed them aside and reached for another 
batch. After the second one, he let out a whoop. “Bingo!” 

It was a negative for a promissory note, one of the notes that had been 
“signed” with Jim Bridger’s X. 

On the third day of the hearing, April 17, Jack Smith, a photoengraver 
at Debouzek Engraving Co. in Salt Lake City, took the stand. A forty-year 
veteran of the printing and engraving business, Smith had a gentle man- 
ner and leathery smile. 

Biggs showed him an invoice from Debouzek Engraving, marked 
State’s Exhibit No. 69. 

“Do you recognize specifically that particular invoice marked State’s 
No. 69?” 

“Yes, I do.” 

“How do you recognize it?” 

“Because I made it out.” 

“Is it in your handwriting?” 

“It’s in my handwriting.” 

“Let’s go through it briefly. Tell the court, what it is that was ordered 
on that particular receipt?” 

“It was a Jack London signature.” He explained that the customer had 
ordered an etched plate made from a sample signature provided by the 
customer. The plate was then mounted on wood “so the customer can use 
it for letterpress work or to print.” 

“Can you tell how State’s 69 was paid for by the individual?” 

“It was paid in cash.” 

“What was the name of the individual that ordered that particular 
plate?” 

“A Mike Hansen.” 

Ken Farnsworth had accompanied Biggs to Debouzek Engraving about 
a month after the arrest, led there by a $2 check found among Hofmann’s 
papers, made out to Debouzek on March 8, 1986. 

Sitting in his little office surrounded by samples of artwork the firm had 



CONTENDING WI TH LUCIFER 381 



done at the turn of the century — “Wasatch Brand Butter,” “Popularity 
Chocolates,” “Vernal Honey” — Mr. Debouzek, the son of the founder, 
seemed baffled by their questions. “Gee,” he said, “I’m the owner, but 
I don’t really do all this stuff.” He sent them to Jack Smith, who sat at 
a long, low counter against the back wall next to a tall filing cabinet filled, 
undoubtedly, with pink invoices in no particular order, Farnsworth feared. 

Smith said he had seen Hofmann on television and in the newspapers 
but didn’t remember having done work for him. Farnsworth explained 
what they were looking for and began showing Smith copies of Hofmann’s 
most important documents. 

When he got to the “Oath of a Freeman,” Smith took one look at it 
and said, “I made that.” 

Farnsworth was afraid to look at Biggs. “Come again?” he ventured. 

“Yeah,” said Smith nonchalantly. “I remember making that one.” 

Farnsworth struggled to maintain his professional composure. “Do you 
think maybe you could find it for us?” 

“Yeah, sure.” He loped into the back room and a few minutes later 
returned with the negative for Mark Hofmann’s “Oath of a Freeman.” 
He pointed at Farnsworth’s copy. “That was printed from this negative.” 

Farnsworth couldn’t hold back any longer. “Don’t you realize,” he 
shouted, “this is a one and a half million dollar fraud!” 

Smith looked at Debouzek, who was standing next to him, and the two 
men said, almost in unison, “We didn’t know.” They were obviously 
afraid the police might consider them part of the scam — accessories after 
the fact, or something. “The plate has a disclaimer at the bottom,” they 
pointed out. 

A few more minutes and Smith produced the receipt. It was dated 
March 26 and made out to “M. Hansen.” Smith also produced a second 
receipt for another version of the “Oath of a Freeman.” The customer’s 
name on that order was “Mark Harris,” but the telephone number he gave 
was Mark Hofmann’s and the receipt was dated March 8 — the same day 
Hofmann, apparently short of cash, wrote a $2 check to Debouzek En- 
graving. 

After the fourth day, Scott Christensen stopped coming to the hearings. 
Farnsworth asked Mac Christensen why. 

“You convinced him Mark’s the guy. He doesn’t need to hear any 
more. All he wanted to know was whether Mark was the guy who did it. 
He’s absolutely convinced.” 

So was Mac Christensen. So convinced that he wondered why they 



382 THE MORMON MURDERS 



bothered to go on with the hearings. “Do we have to do any more?” he 
asked Farnsworth. “Is there any more point in going farther? Does any- 
body have any doubt in their mind that this guy did it?” 

Farnsworth couldn't help gloating. “It gets better than this,” he 
beamed. “We are saving better things for later. The best evidence we're 
saving for the trial.” 



There was one more twist to the Mike Hansen story. David 
Biggs called Sonda Gary to the stand. 

“Where do you work?” asked Biggs. 

“At Salt Lake Stamp.” 

Biggs showed her State's Exhibit No. 68, a copy of a receipt from Salt 
Lake Stamp. “Can you identify that particular receipt?” 

“Yes, I can.” 

“How?” 

“I am the one that wrote it out.” 

“To whom was this particular receipt made out for?” 

“It was made out for Mike Hansen.” 

“The address?” 

“He didn't give me an address. It was P.O. Box 9421, Salt Lake City, 
Utah, 84109” 

“Can you tell me what it is that was requested to be produced by Salt 
Lake Stamp by Mr. Hansen?” 

“A stamp.” 

“Did Mr. Hansen bring in something to show you to give you what it 
is he wanted you to produce?” 

“Yes, he did. He brought me in a copy of the stamp that he wanted 
made.” Biggs pointed to some writing at the bottom of the receipt. “It 
says, in parentheses, 'Needs to be exactly' and, underlined three or four 
times, 'like above' exclamation point. Who wrote that?” 

“I did ” 

“Can you tell me why you would have written that?” 

“I asked him if he just wanted a rubber stamp to say that and he said, 
'No. It has to be exactly like the one I brought in,' and so I wrote that 




CONTENDING WITH LUCIFER 383 

down underneath so our typesetter would know he would need to make 
a photocopy of that.” 

‘‘What is it that he wanted reproduced?” 

“It’s just a rubber stamp.” 

“What does it say?” 

“It says Austin Lewis, and it looks like — it’s an address, 301 Harper, 
Berkeley, California.” It was the name and address of the friend to whom 
Jack London had, supposedly, given a first edition of Call of the Wild 
complete with a “dream inscription.” 

Biggs himself had found the receipt in the attic of the Salt Lake Stamp 
Co., a big outfit that made rubber stamps for almost every business in 
town. He was, as usual, going through boxes and boxes of papers sur- 
rounded by dim light and dusty rafters, thinking that this was, without 
doubt, the most ridiculous search of all. What was a suave, ambitious 
young lawyer like David Biggs doing searching through crates full of old 
receipts anyway? 

They had chosen Salt Lake Stamp for no reason other than it was the 
biggest stamp-making company around and therefore the most likely one 
for Hofmann to use. They had already been through all the receipts in 
the attic (and the basement) once. They had gone all the way back to 1978 
and come up empty. Now they were starting the search all over again. 

Then Biggs hit paydirt. “Look,” he called out, “a Mike Hansen!” The 
receipt was stapled to two other pieces of paper: one the original artwork 
submitted by “Hansen,” the other a proof of the finished stamp. (Later, 
they found in the same crates an order for stamps used to print notes for 
the “Spanish Fork Cooperative Institution.” That one was made out to 
Mark Hofmann.) 

Biggs was proud of his discovery, so when Jim Bell brought it over to 
the county attorney’s office two weeks later, he took a special interest in 
it. As he watched his colleagues pass it around, he had a crazy idea. “Jim, 
has this thing been dusted for prints?” 

“No,” said Bell, thinking. Give me a break. Fingerprints dry up and 
fade away, in months sometimes, and these bad been around since 1982. 

But Biggs didn’t care about what usually happened. He just had a 
feeling. He put the stapled papers back in the envelope. “I want these 
analyzed for prints. And I want it done today.” 

“Okay,” said Bell, shaking his head, “but it’s not going to show any- 
thing.” 

They sent it off to Scott Pratt, the latent-prints examiner at the state 



384 THE MORMON MURDERS 

crime lab, a former FBI man and a real Da Vinci of his craft. If anybody 
could find a print on that document, Pratt could. 

Biggs called Jim Bell back to the stand after Sonda Gary stepped down. 
“I would like to show you what’s been marked State’s Exhibit No. 75 
and ask if you have seen that before.” 

“Yes. This is fingerprints that were taken off Mark Hofmann up at the 
LDS Hospital.” 

“What hand?” 

“Left hand.” 

“Were you present when Mark Hofmann’s left fingerprints were 
taken?” 

“Yes. They were done at my request, and I was present in the room 
when it was done.” 

Then Biggs called Scott Pratt to the witness stand. He was an unlikely 
hero, soft-spoken and nondescript in his regulation police-force mustache. 
“Who do you work for?” 

“The State of Utah crime laboratory.” 

“What position do you hold at the state crime lab?” 

“I am the latent-prints examiner.” 

Biggs showed Pratt State’s Exhibit No. 75. “I ask you if you can identify 
that?” 

“This is a fingerprint card that was shown to me by Detective Bell 
representing Mark Hofmann.” 

Biggs then showed him State’s Exhibit No. 68A, containing the three 
pieces of paper that Biggs had recovered from Salt Lake Stamp. 

“What were you requested to do, if anything, with 68A?” 

“My request was to process these documents, three documents, for the 
possibility of finding any latent fingerprints contained upon the docu- 
ments.” 

“Did you do that?” 

“Yes, I did.” 

“What, if anything, did you find?” 

“On the document which I marked as No. B which has a T’ and a 
stamp of ‘Austin Lewis’ and down at the bottom says ‘Needs to be exactly 
like above’ — I found some identifiable prints on that document.” 
“Were you able to identify the latent print on 68A with any known 
prints that you were shown?” 

“Yes. On the document that’s State Exhibit 68A, up in the upper 
left-hand side of the document I found a latent fingerprint which was 



CONTENDING WITH LUCIFER 385 

found to be the same as the left ring finger on the fingerprint card bearing 
the name Mark Hofmann.” 

After the Mike Hansen testimony, the mood of the press and the public 
changed overnight. When Ken Farnsworth came to the courtroom that 
day, he could feel the audience “rolling over” from the defense to the 
prosecution. Jim Bell, who had been going over to the courthouse during 
breaks to see if the prosecution needed anything from the evidence room, 
sensed a complete transformation. Mark Hofmann was no longer the 
innocent victim of a bungling police department, he was the calculating, 
cold-blooded killer of two innocent people. The police were no longer 
closed-minded clods, they were intrepid investigators, guardians of the 
peace. 

One female television reporter approached Bell after the Hansen testi- 
mony and put her arm around him. “We would really like to interview 
you and Ken,” she said, nuzzling him. (They had never been introduced. 
He recognized her from TV.) Bell was too polite, too chivalrous, too 
diffident to say what he was thinking: You bitch. After all this crap you’ve 
thrown our way, in one day you want us to be friends and tell all. 

The only apology came from Mike Carter, the court reporter for the 
Tribune who had roused the cops at every tum in the investigation and 
earned a nearly permanent place on the police shit list. In just three days, 
Carter’s courtroom dispatches had gone from championing Ron Yengich 
(defense attacks key witness in hofmann case) to congratulating the 
prosecution (fingerprint on receipt matches hofmann’s). “I thought 
I knew everything there was to know in this case,” he told Bell and 
Farnsworth’s boss. Captain Oran Peck. “I thought I had all the sources. 
And I didn’t know shit. You guys kept things secret from us that I had 
no idea about.” 

When Peck relayed the apology, Farnsworth thought it was about time. 
“No shit, shinola,” he said. “What does he think we’ve been doing over 
here?” 



386 THE MORMON MURDERS 



On the fifth day of hearings, Bob Stott began presenting 
evidence on charges related to the documents, and the 
courtroom fell, almost instantly, into a profound slumber. Stott led a 
parade of witnesses through minute descriptions, often confusingly de- 
tailed, of dozens of documents and the circumstances under which each 
one was acquired from Mark Hofmann. On cross-examination, Brad Rich, 
Yengich’s second, compounded the ennui by taking each witness back 
over the same flat ground a second time, sometimes a third time. By the 
sixth day, reporters felt free to put down their pencils whenever Rich rose 
to speak, and members of the audience were openly expressing their 
disdain for his endless quibbling. 

About the only exciting moments were provided by a crazy lady in scarf 
and glasses who sat in the back of the courtroom and every now and then 
yelled out in a strident voice, “The Church is railroading Mark Hofmann! 
He's taking the fall for people in the Church !” 

In the witness room, Ralph Bailey, Wilford Cardon, A1 Rust, and other 
Hofmann victims occupied themselves talking still more deals. A collector 
from Arizona tried to buy a "packet of gold,” an extremely rare, early form 
of Mormon currency, from Rust. When Rust steadfastly refused to sell, 
Ralph Bailey turned to him sympathetically. "Al, do I know where that 
packet came from?” 

Rust rolled his eyes and nodded sheepishly. "Yeah.” 

Amid all the talk of irresistible deals and rates of return and double 
collateral, Brent Ashworth's appearance was a jolting shot of humanity. 
Two weeks after the bombings, while Ashworth was out of town, his 
seven-year-old son, Sam, had been hit by a car driven by drunken teenag- 
ers. For three months, he had languished in a coma. Then, for three more 
months, he seemed to get better. Charlene Ashworth stood by his bed all 
day and Brent all night. Then, on the Friday before Ashworth was sched- 
uled to testify, Sam died. 

He blamed Mark Hofmann. He was not there when the accident 
happened partly because he feared for his life, because Hofmann had sent 
a message from the hospital that he should get out of town, that he might 
be the next victim. 




CONTENDING WITH LUCIFER 387 



David Biggs, Ashworth’s cousin and law school classmate, offered to put 
off his testimony, but Ashworth said, “I’d like to get it over with before 
the funeral so I can go to the funeral without having this thing hanging 
over me.” Earlier on the day he was scheduled to testify, Ron Yengich — 
another of Ashworth’s law school classmates — had approached him. “I’m 
sorry to hear about your son,” he said. “Would it be agreeable to you if 
we came down and talked to you privately in a few days? And we’ll waive 
our cross-examination?” 

Ashworth considered it a gracious gesture. 

Later that day in court, when Yengich stood up and announced he 
wasn’t going to cross-examine Ashworth, Hofmann shot him a startled 
look that said, You’re not ? 

There was one element of suspense still hanging over the hearings: 
Would Gordon Hinckley testify? As late as April 19, the defense had been 
telling reporters that they expected to see Hinckley on the stand the 
following week. Bob Stott’s brave determination to subpoena Hinckley 
seemed to have dissolved in the three weeks since the meeting in Hinck- 
ley’s office, although no one knew exactly why. After that meeting, David 
Biggs and everybody else in the county attorney’s office had been cut off 
from any further contact with Church officials. Stott insisted that he, and 
he alone, would deal with the Church. 

Farnsworth, for one, was not reassured. He had seen the way Stott dealt 
with other, lesser Church officials. Like Hugh Pinnock. In briefing Stott 
in preparation for Pinnock’s testimony at the hearings, Farnsworth had 
told him about Pinnock’s statement to the effect that he considered the 
piece of papyrus that Hofmann showed him to be genuine — that is, one 
of the papyri from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham. 
Stott refused to believe it. “I won’t ask Pinnock that on the stand,” he 
snapped, “because I think he’s lying.” 

“But Bob, this is an important piece of evidence,” Farnsworth insisted. 
“You’ve got to ask the questions.” Stott refused to do it. He refused to 
be a party to exposing a General Authority to ridicule: either for lying, 
or for being unable to distinguish between commonplace hieroglyphics 
and a genuine Joseph Smith papyrus. At the preliminary hearing, Stott 
stuck to his pledge and skipped over the subject entirely. 

If Stott was that deferential to Pinnock, his colleagues wondered, how 
could he stand up to Hinckley? The fact that he was known to have had 
several one-on-one meetings with Hinckley in the interim only fueled 
speculation that a deal, explicit or implicit, had already been cut. 

But Hinckley still had a problem. If he wanted to be certain to avoid 
the witness chair, somebody else needed to sign off on any deal: Ron 



388 THE MORMON MURDERS 

Yengich. And with the day approaching when Stott was scheduled to put 
the Stowell letter into evidence, Yengich was still making noises about 
calling Hinckley to the stand. 

That’s when Bob Stott paid an unusual visit to the counsel for the 
defense. For the record, he took David Biggs with him to Yengich’s office 
on 4th South. 

“President Hinckley doesn’t want to testify,” Stott told Yengich. “And 
we don’t want to call him any more than we want to call any other 
recalcitrant witness. How would it be if we set up an appointment for you 
to talk to him? And then you come to us, after you talk to him, and see 
if you can enter into a stipulation as to what his testimony will be.” Stott 
made it sound like his idea, but everyone assumed he could never have 
offered a meeting if Hinckley hadn’t cleared it first. 

Yengich accepted the offer. 

It was a brief, tense, businesslike meeting. Different as they were, both 
men had something the other wanted. Hinckley wanted a stipulation that 
only Yengich could give him. But what did Yengich want? What h egot 
was an agreement by Hinckley that Church officials would argue against 
the death penalty at Hofmann’s sentencing. 

Hinckley undoubtedly wanted more (a guarantee that Yengich 
wouldn’t call him to testify at trial, for instance), and so did Yengich (an 
agreement that the Church would push for a plea bargain, perhaps), but 
those deals would have to wait. 

For now, it was a sure sign of how Yengich thought the hearings were 
going that he was already hedging his bets against the death penalty. 



Mark Hofmann had his own way of responding to the 
deteriorating situation in the courtroom. On April 23, after 
seven days of hearings, he reinjured his knee. As Ron Yengich told it, he 
had tried to take a step without crutches, fell, and fractured his kneecap. 
Between the surgery and the sedatives, Yengich argued, Mark would not 
be able to exercise his constitutional right to assist in his own defense. The 
hearings came to a sudden halt. Judge Grant was not pleased. It was a 
shame, he said, to interrupt a preliminary hearing already so complicated. 
But better that than to go through with it, only to have some higher court 




CONTENDING WITH LUCIFER 389 

order him to repeat the whole thing. With great reluctance, he granted 
a continuance until May 5. 

Local media scrambled to fill the news vacuum. 

At KSL, a reporter, Jack Ford, suggested keeping the story alive by 
doing an extensive recap of the hearings to date. 

It was a suggestion that almost cost him his job. 

It wasn’t the recap itself that got him in trouble. In fact, the station, like 
all the local stations, had long since learned that Hofmann was a ratings 
winner and the idea won instant approval. The problem was what he said in 
the recap. In reviewing the testimony that Hugh Pinnock had arranged a 
loan for Hofmann from the First Interstate Bank, he said the Church had 
helped to arrange a loan for Hofmann to buy the McLellin Collection. He 
also mentioned that the Church had arranged for the mission president in 
Nova Scotia to buy the McLellin Collection from Hofmann. 

The moment the story aired, the roof caved in. The Church spokes- 
man, Richard Lindsay, father of KSL anchorman Bruce Lindsay, called 
the news department raving mad. Spence Kinard buckled instantly and 
ran a retraction even before calling Ford at home to brief him on the 
situation. When Ford saw the retraction, he went through the ceiling. He 
set fire to the newsroom phone lines but Kinard was unapologetic. “You 
hung me out to dry,” he said. 

“Spence, it’s not you who got hung out to dry,” Ford shot back. “The 
Church is upset because we said they helped arrange a loan. Well they 
did ! They say it was an individual, not the Church, but that’s baloney. 
It may have been an individual who placed the call, but he was a Church 
official, sitting in his Church office, on Church time, using a Church 
phone, and he did it for the benefit of the Church. Nobody else wanted 
that McLellin Collection except the Church. And the Nova Scotia mis- 
sion president doesn’t collect documents. He was just a big-bucks guy who 
said, ‘If you need help, I’ll help you out.’ If the Church says they weren’t 
helping arrange any buyers for anything, how do you explain the fact that 
the Church volunteered to get an armored car to go down to Texas and 
pick the Collection up?” 

The arguments were lost on Kinard. The only arguments he cared about 
were the ones that came from up the line, from senior management and 
higher. 

The next day, Ford spent eight hours on the carpet, explaining his 
actions four times at four different levels of bureaucracy, right up to and 
including a meeting with the vice-president of Bonneville International, 
Don Gale. 



390 THE MORMON MURDERS 



And then it happened again. 

In another report, Ford repeated a direct quotation from the testimony 
of Curt Bench, head of the rare-book department at Deseret Book. Bench 
had said that Hugh Pinnock or Gordon Hinckley called Steve Christensen 
to say that Hofmann hadn't paid back the loan yet and to ask him to tell 
Hofmann that if he didn’t get his act together, they were going to 
excommunicate him. 

This time, Hinckley went through the roof. 

The Word came down through the bureaucracy like a thunderbolt from 
Mount Olympus. Several General Authorities called the KSL station 
manager, Jack Adamson, who called Kinard, who called Ford, and threat- 
ened to fire him on the spot. The report was in error, they argued, because 
Christensen did not have the authority to excommunicate anybody, and 
if he conveyed that message to anybody, he was doing so entirely on his 
own initiative. 

But there was no mistaking what had really brought down the whirl- 
wind: Ford had spoken Gordon Hinckley's name in connection with the 
Hofmann case. For months, everyone in the media had been tiptoeing 
around Hinckley’s involvement, and now Ford had dared to jump on it 
with both feet. It was only a passing mention, but someone still wanted 
his head. 

Once again, Ford tried to defend himself: ''Christensen was relaying 
information from the Church Presidency,” he explained. "All he was 
saying was that if Mark didn’t straighten up, it might prompt the Church 
to bring excommunication proceedings. Christensen wasn’t saying that 
he would excommunicate Mark, only that the Church might do it.” 
Somebody upstairs was quibbling over legalistic turns of phrase, and Ford 
guessed who it was. 

Then came the final warning. If he stepped out of line one more time, 
he would be fired. It was a clear, unequivocal message, and it came, unlike 
Christensen’s warning, on the highest authority. 

Ford had had enough. He told Kinard, "Okay. From now on, I’ll just 
give you the information, and you write the stories. Whatever you want, 
you do it. You can write the story, then have three different people go 
in and change it around so that it doesn’t make the Church look bad.” 

That seemed to satisfy them. 



CONTENDING WITH LUCIFER 391 



When the hearings resumed on May 5, the prosecution 
woke the courtroom